UPDATE: Man allegedly strangles woman, stages drowning - WSMV Channel 4

UPDATE: Man allegedly strangles woman, stages drowning

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - A Chattanooga man is accused of strangling a woman and then staging it to look like a drowning, according to police.

Chattanooga police arrested 20-year-old JaMichael Harris Tuesday and charged him with criminal homicide. Police suspect he strangled Inez Burney and left her in a bathtub.

Burney posted a picture of a large amount of money on Facebook at about 1 a.m. Saturday,  according to the affidavit.

Police believe Harris “wanted the victim’s money and he attacked her.” The money was missing from Burney's home in the 1400 block of Cypress Street Court in College Hill Courts where she was killed, according to the affidavit.

Harris told police he went to Burney's home and found her at 4 a.m. Saturday. He called 911 at about 5:30 a.m. saying Burney was unresponsive in the bathtub and that he started CPR. Police arrived noting Burney's hair wasn't even wet. Harris also couldn't account for a time lapse before calling 911.

Burney was taken to the medical examiner's office for an autopsy. The medical examiner reported bruises on her neck and evidence of a struggle. The medical examiner's office ruled Burney's death was a homicide and that she died as a result of strangulation.

The affidavit states Harris had scratches on his face that were “consistent with a female attempting to defend herself against an attacker.”

"She was a great person. She always smiled. She always kept her head up. And she always stayed loyal to her friendship," said neighbor Laquilla Lloyd. "I have to remind myself that she's in a better place and she's not coming back home."

Neighbors set up a makeshift memorial for Burney complete with flowers, candles and teddy bears. It remains on the stoop that Lloyd shared with Burney, one day after police made an arrest in the case.

Police have investigated 14 homicides, year to date in the city. Of those cases, police have identified suspects in at least nine, or 64 percent, of the homicides. Lloyd hopes to see the neighborhood make progress towards safety.

"It can be done but it takes more than one person to make a stand. We have to come together as a community to make things happen," she said. "Cause you don't want to have to look around you, over your back to see a murderer living around you. That's a scary feeling."

Harris was booked Tuesday on a $500,000 bond. His next court date is set for June 17 before Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Christine Sell.

Burney's wake is Friday evening from 6 p.m. - 8p.m. at Advantage Funeral Home on McCallie Ave., with a funeral scheduled for Olivet Baptist Church at noon Saturday.
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