The lawyer for an 18-year-old Chattanooga man charged in the rape and beating death of a 15-year-old girl argued Tuesday that injuries that caused her death could have come from a diabetic seizure.
Carlos Juan Harrison's charges of criminal homicide, tampering with evidence and aggravated rape were passed to the Hamilton County grand jury Tuesday after a preliminary hearing before Sessions Court Judge Christie Mahn Sell.
Police say that Harrison raped and beat Chelsea Hayes-Smith on the night of May 13, according to an arrest report. Smith was a freshman at Central High School.
But Harrison's attorney, Bill Speek, attempted to open up other explanations for the girl's death during the testimony of Hamilton County Medical Examiner Dr. James Metcalfe.
Metcalfe agreed there were no external signs of injury to Smith's head but pointed to marks on her neck, across her chest and near her kidneys. He'd written in his autopsy report that blunt force trauma to the head and neck were the causes of her death.
After the hearing, Speek said he thought that Metcalfe's evaluation supports his theory of the case against his client -- that the internal injuries were consistent with a seizure and a fall.
"I think we showed there was no sign of trauma to the exterior of the body," Speek said in reference to the head injuries.
But on the stand, Metcalfe didn't budge from his original decision that the injuries were caused intentionally. He described, in detail with a diagram, injuries to Smith's genital and anal areas consistent with penetration.
Harrison told Chattanooga police Detective Daniel Francis that he had sex with Smith on the night of May 12 and, when he awoke the next morning, she was unresponsive and he didn't know why.
Harrison's mother, Twanna Mitchell, testified in Tuesday's hearing that Harrison and Smith came to her home about midnight on May 12 and visited with her and at least three friends. There were some details of the evening she did not remember because she'd drank nearly 48 beers throughout the day.
She said she went to sleep at 3 a.m. and didn't see Smith again until she found her body unresponsive on her front porch at 6 p.m.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...