A Hixson man on parole for murder has been charged with killing his wife, 13-year-old stepdaughter and 6-week-old son Monday.
Police Chief Steve Parks said Tony Pope, 36, on Tuesday morning confessed to the gruesome murders.
He said there was "extensive trauma" to the three victims.
They are Andrea Pope; her daughter, Brianna Justice; and young son, Christian Pope.
According to an affidavit, Andrea Pope had talked of getting a divorce, angering Pope who said they had been married until death do us part. Mrs. Pope had planned to leave with the children Monday night. Relatives called to ask about her and Pope first said she left with a friend. Later, he said she was in the laundry room (where her body was found). The affidavit says he struck his wife several blows with a hammer, then grabbed the 13-year-old and choked her to death before kicking her in the chest. He then went to the baby's crib and strangled him. He put the baby's body back in the crib and struck it a blow with his hand.
Before leaving the residence, Pope cut the phone lines and put a towel over an outside light with a sensor on it.
The incident happened in a brick duplex at night at 1208-B Helena Drive in Hixson.
Chief Parks said police were called about 10:30 p.m. to check on the wellbeing of the residents. He said an officer looked in the window and saw Mrs. Pope lying on the floor bleeding from the head.
The SWAT team was called to the residence, but it was found that Pope had already fled the scene.
Chief Parks said there was an extensive manhunt throughtout the night. He said Pope was arrested without incident about 7:30 after he showed up at work at the East Chattanooga Lumber Co. on Crutchfield Street off Amnicola Highway. He had apparently stopped there to tell his boss he was headed to Florida. The employer persuaded him to stay, giving police time to arrive.
Pope has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife. Chief Parks said charges will be lodged on the death of the children after the medical examiner's report is back.
Pope is being held at the County Jail.
Chief Parks said Pope was charged with the Feb. 7, 1995 death of his girlfriend on McDonald Drive in East Ridge.
He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Oct. 4, 1995, and was given a 15-year prison sentence. Pope claimed the girlfriend, Susan Yarbrough, was coming after him with a knife when he beat her to death with a frying pan.
Pope was released from prison in October, 2001.
Chief Parks said the state has issued an emergency revocation of his parole.
Chief Parks said the killings involved "domestic-related issues."
On why Pope went to work, the chief said, "I just think he wanted to talk to somebody."
Of his early release from prison, Chief Parks said it is frustrating "for officers who put it on the line to apprehend these individuals. There was one murder, and now there are four murders. We would hope after the first murder, the offender would be taken out of the community for a long time."
Pope was convicted of assault on another woman in 1993. He was given a suspended sentence.
Pope is due to appear in General Sessions Court on May 11.
Pope was initially paroled to Alabama where his parents lived, then he moved back to Hamilton County.
Some 15 counselors were on hand to help with students at Hixson Middle School. Students decorated Brianna's locker.