Mother's disappearance, possible death becomes cable TV talk fodder
But one cable TV talk hostess is drawing her own conclusions.
(WRCB) -- The Hamilton County Medical Examiner will need at least one more day of investigation to determine whether the remains found in her late grandfather's boarded-up house Saturday, are those of Erika Whaley, 25, a mother of four who has been missing since mid-September.
But Whaley's family, and the children's father, her estranged boyfriend James Lee ('Jimmy') Hall have told Eyewitness News they're "99 percent certain" the remains are hers,
Via his Facebook account, Hall has declared he has had nothing to do with Whaley's disappearance or death. But he's declined to be interviewed on the advice of his lawyer.
"Jimmy's been a part of our family for over ten years, I don't want to have to think that (he's involved)," Whaley sister, Sandra Lowrance told Eyewitness News Monday afternoon.
But only hours later, Lowrance was talking to former prosecutor-turned-cable TV crime show hostess Nancy Grace; prime fodder for Grace's program on CNN's HLN (formerly "Headline News") network.
"We believe she (Erika) turned up all right; dead in an abandoned home," Grace tells her viewers.
"How close was it," Grace asks Lowrance, to when your sister (Erika) said about the boy (Hall) having a new girlfriend, to Erika going missing?"
"I never heard from her again," Lowrance answers.
Police are declining any additional comment beyond what Public Information Officer Nathan Hartwig relayed to reporters when the unidentified remains were discovered Saturday afternoon.
"It's still an undetermined DOA," Hartwig said Saturday. "The homicide unit is out here working it. Does that answer your question."
That's standard procedure.
Why did Whaley's family wait to report her missing until she failed to show up for Hall's hearing on kidnapping and assault charges December 16? It's not the first time she'd disappeared.
"Just maybe, to get herself together," Lowrance says. "To decides what she wants to do with her life."
Drug troubles, Lowrance says, had alienated Whaley from much of the family. Her four boys by Hall have been in the custody of Hall's parents almost two years.
Lowrance also confirms that Whaley likely had made at least one enemy, who injured her badly enough to put her in the hospital last January. Hall, she says, was in jail at the time on other charges.
According to a Chattanooga Police Incident Narrative from January 9, 2011, officers discovered an unidentified woman (whom Lowrance confirms was Erika Whaley) behind the Food Lion on Highway 58 in Hixson.
"She couldn't walk or talk," the report relates. "She was unable to tell us what happened to her at this time. We searched the area for any evidence of a crime, but did not locate anything."
Lowrance says Whaley never told family members what had happened.
Hall's friends have come to his defense on his Facebook page.
'Kelly' writes: "I am sorry your boys have had to deal with the un-necessary stress of lies people are speaking against you."
'Tashah' criticizes new reports for "only looking at what she (Erika) had gotten into recently, rather than the things that followed her when you were working hard to keep her safe."