UPDATE: Mother of baby shot set to testify before being murder
A 26-year-old Chattanooga mother is the city's 15th murder victim. Channel 3 is taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding her death and talking to those who loved her.
UPDATE: A 26-year-old Chattanooga mother is the city's 15th murder victim. Channel 3 is taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding her death and talking to those who loved her.
Bianca Horton was expected to testify against the man accused of shooting her daughter, Zoey in 2015. Police say Horton’s death was gang-related, but it's not clear if her plans to testify played a role.
Friends say Bianca Horton loved nothing more than her four children. Now they are demanding answers as to why the 26 year-old was not being protected as she prepared to testify in a 2015 fatal shooting case.
Bianca Horton’s friends sort through a box of children's clothing, summer clothing she purchased for her four children just before her death. Horton loved her kids. “Take her kids places, she always out. You see her you would see them,” said a friend.
Friends are too scared to show their faces or share their names, after the mother of four was shot and killed. They tell Channel 3 the last time they saw Horton was Tuesday evening. Her car keys and purse were found in the parking lot of her apartment complex. Her car is still parked outside. Friends believe someone attacked her when she was walking into her apartment after work.
“We've brought out every possible resource and partner out here to try and find who may be involved in this,” said Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher.
Horton's body was found five miles from her home on Elder Street. She was set to testify against Cortez Sims, the man accused of shooting her daughter in a 2015 home invasion. Friends don't understand why she wasn't receiving protection from police or prosecutors. “Less than two, three weeks away. They should have been protecting her. Even if she didn't ask,” said a friend.
“There is no such thing as Witness Protection Program for local crimes. There is confusion about that,” said Fletcher.
Friends believe Horton’s death is connected to the trial. “It's their job to do it. Since they didn't do it, they need to pay for her funeral,” said a friend. Friends wait for answers and hope Horton’s children will be cared for now that she's gone. “I just hope her kids, whoever gets them, takes care of them, don't miss treat them.”
If a victim requests protection, police will add their address to a watch list, increase patrols, or add surveillance to a neighborhood. We reached out to the District Attorney's office for information on witness protection. The office declined to comment.
UPDATE: Just hours after she was found murdered, Chattanooga Police were at Bianca Horton's apartment complex -- trying to piece together the final days of the 26-year-old's life.
A pedestrian found her body on the side of Elder Street on Wednesday morning. She had been shot several times. Police said it's gang-related.
Baby toys and bicycles sit outside of the mother of four's now-empty apartment.
"This one is very painful for the police department," said Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher.
Fletcher had known Bianca since last January, when she and her daughter, Zoey, 1, were among four people shot during a home invasion. One woman died.
Channel 3 was there a year ago, when mom and daughter presented Chattanooga Police officers special life saving awards.
"If it wasn't for them, Zoey may not be here," Bianca told Eyewitness News in May 2015.
Gang member, Cortez Sims, 18, is charged for the College Hill Courts shooting. He is still behind bars.
Bianca was set to testify against him at his trial in September.
But until then, she was living life as normal.
"There is no such thing as witness protection for local crimes, there's maybe some confusion about that," Fletcher explained.
However, Chattanooga police offer several services for victims of violent crimes.
If a victim requests it, police will put their address on a watch list, increase patrols, or add surveillance to a neighborhood.
It's not clear if Bianca asked police for help recently, or if she knew she was in danger.
"If somebody knows Bianca, knows her acquaintances, has had contact with her anytime recently, please, please let us know," Fletcher said.
Anyone with information should call Chattanooga Police at (423) 698-2525. Tips can remain anonymous.
PREVIOUS STORY: The mother of a one-year-old girl shot during a gang drive-by shooting in 2015 has been found murdered off Elder Street in Chattanooga.
CPD detectives tell Channel 3 they discovered the body of 26-year-old Bianca Horton on Wednesday. Horton was set to testify against Cortez Sims,18, in a murder trial. Sims is charged with the January 2015 shooting that left one person dead while injuring Horton's daughter, Zoey, and three others.
Cortez Sims' trial is slated to start September 27th of this year. His next court appearance is scheduled in two weeks.
Police believe this Homicide could be gang related- they want to talk to everyone in contact with Horton in last 48 hrs— Natalie Potts (@NatalieWRCB) May 25, 2016
When the Chattanooga Police Violent Crime Bureau arrived on scene they initiated an investigation on the body found at the 2100 block of Elder Street and attempted to locate witnesses of the crime.
Police say Horton was shot several times and was transported by HCEMS to the Medical Examiners Office.
DA's office now confirms Bianca Horton was to testify against Cortez Sims, she was cooperating w/ prosecution. Police looking at all angles— Natalie Potts (@NatalieWRCB) May 25, 2016
Horton in 2015 on arrest in shooting of her daughter, "I forgive him for what he did but I still have a child that is hurt at this point."— Callie Starnes (@calliestarnes) May 25, 2016
Chattanooga Police Violent Crime Bureau Investigators continue to follow all actionable leads. Chattanooga Police ask anyone with information regarding this crime to call 423-698-2525