Members of the family of murder victim Quincy Bell sobbed and protested in court on Tuesday as a prosecutor said the state did not have enough proof at this time to proceed with charges against Marcus Boston.
Prosecutor Brett Alexander said the chief state witness, Jessica Little, had moved to Florida after she earlier told police she heard Boston admit killing Bell. He recommended that the case be dismissed "without prejudice" - allowing the state to revive the charge later if more proof develops.
He said even if authorities are able to get Ms. Little back to Chattanooga, she may refuse to testify because he said it might incriminate her. Also, he said, the state has no evidence to corroborate her statement.
General Sessions Court Judge Lila Statom declined to dismiss the case at this time, but gave Boston an own recognizance bond. However, he is still held on an aggravated assault charge and a probation violation from Criminal Court.
She set a new date for Feb. 25 for the state to determine if Ms. Little can be brought back as a possible witness.
Vanessa Buckner, mother of the shooting victim, was among family members who cried out when the prosecutor asked for dismissal. She said, "He took my baby away from me. I don't understand why y'all won't go get this girl."
The mother said of Ms. Little, "She set my son up. She's just as guilty as he is."
She said Ms. Little has been taunting younger siblings of Bell on Facebook with statements like "laugh out loud."
Det. Karl Fields said Ms. Little went to Florida to live with her sister. He said the sister told him that Ms. Little is still in Florida.
Judge Statom said it is difficult to get a reluctant witness here from another state. She said authorities here would have to request a hearing in Florida, and a judge there would have to order her return.
At another point, Ms. Buckner said, "It will be taken care of." That prompted Judge Statom to caution family members not to "take the law in your own hands."
The judge did tell Boston, "If you get out, I wouldn't go anywhere. I would stay home."
Judge Statom said, "It looks like the state filed charges in this case without having adequate proof."
Boston was on the TBI Most Wanted List after he fled following the Sept. 22 murder. He has been in jail since his capture a week before Christmas.
Police said Ms. Little at the time of the murder was living with Boston, but had just spent time with Bell. She said she saw Boston with a handgun shortly after the 20-year-old Bell was gunned down.
Jessica Little also said she heard Boston admit he had shot and killed the 20-year-old Bell.
Boston is charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, and unlawful use of a firearm.
Police said Bell was shot while driving east in the 3800 block of Wilcox Boulevard. After he was shot, Bell was able to drive to the parking lot of the Kangaroo at 4026 Shallowford Road. He died there.
Police said Bell's phone records showed he had been in contact with Ms. Little by text messages and phone calls throughout the night and just minutes before the shooting.
Ms. Little said she was with Bell shortly before the shooting.
She said she saw Boston's silver Chevy Impala follow Bell's vehicle east on Wilcox Boulevard as she and Bell separated. She said she turned on to Tunnel Boulevard before receiving a call from Boston, who told her to meet him at the house they shared on Plumwood Street just off Wilcox Boulevard.
Ms. Little said she pulled into the driveway just as Boston, Anthony "Boom" Edwards and Tammy Montgomery got out of the silver Chevy Impala that she had seen him in minutes earlier.
She said when they got out of the car they advised they "just got him."
Ms. Little said she saw Boston holding a handgun and that he hid it in a broken-down vehicle in the back yard.
She said after he hid the gun, he told her to call her sister in Florida to see if he could hide out at her home.
Ms. Little said she, Boston, Edwards and Ms. Montgomery spent the next few hours in a hotel room in East Ridge. She said while in the hotel room Boston confirmed that he had shot and killed Bell on Wilcox Boulevard.
She said she was afraid to tell police what she knew because Boston is her cousin and she fears him.
She said Boston had a problem with Bell because Bell stole a few hundred dollars in drug money from him (Boston).
She said she had told Boston earlier in the day that she was going to be with Bell.
In the assault case on April 9, Robbey Ray said she was picking up her child from the home of Boston, her ex-boyfriend, at 607 Over. St.
She said they got into a heated argument and Boston pulled out a small silver handgun and waved it in her face.
Boston was gone when police arrived to question him about the incident.