An attorney for a woman who, according to texts, was asked by a Erlanger Lifeforce official to kill his wife, said Vanessa Nelson at first thought Jerry McDonald was joking.
Attorney McCracken Poston, of Ringgold, Ga., said the mother of four initially joked back, but she then pulled back from the murder topic.
He said he has read the entirety of the text messages between McDonald and Ms. Nelson and "Vanessa Nelson was not involved in any plot to murder anyone. Things are not always as they appear, especially in the world of texted communications.”
McDonald, who had worked as a special operations manager at Lifeforce, has been charged by Chattanooga Police with solicitation to commit murder. The profile of McDonald, 49, is no longer on the Lifeforce website.
Police were initially advised that an off-duty officer was at 328 Cherokee Blvd. with someone who said their life was in danger. McDonald was living at 328 Cherokee Blvd. with his wife.
The off-duty officer (wife) said she had viewed several text messages that led her to believe her life was in danger.
She said she had found McDonald passed out drunk that morning and she was using his cellphone to call in to his work to say he would not be there that afternoon. That is when she saw the text messages that police said were to another female, Ms. Nelson, 39.
Attorney Poston said, “Everyone is entitled to be considered innocent throughout the investigative, prosecutorial and judicial phases, and Vanessa also deserves this precious American right as much as anyone.
“Due to the fact that these texts spring from an alleged extramarital affair, there is much salacious conjecture and a rush to judgment regarding Vanessa Nelson. Anyone who has ever been involved in a texted conversation has experienced the confusion created when texts are read or misinterpreted without benefit of the proper context, or as part of a whole conversation.”
Attorney Poston said he has left recorded messages with the Chattanooga Police Department’s Investigative Division, identifying himself and the fact that he is representing Ms. Nelson. He said, “While the requests for a call back have not been answered, law enforcement has continued attempting every day to call my client. If they aren’t going to return my call, I’ll tell them here and now to leave Vanessa Nelson alone. She has a lawyer. If you want to talk to her, you have to talk to me first.”
“The right to counsel is a fundamental right as citizens move through the maze of a legal situation. Consider it invoked,” attorney Poston said.
He said, “It is clear that Vanessa Nelson at first thought the topic at issue was a joke, an exaggerated reaction from McDonald. And while she initially joked back, she clearly withdrew from that specific area of conversation even as McDonald persisted in it.”
Police gave this transcript:
Vanessa: "Do I need to kill her?"
Jerry: "Please kill her, babe, please. I'm begging you."
Vanessa: "Tell me what she is doing."
Jerry: "I need you."
Vanessa: "I need you more."
Jerry: "This b---- is worth a million. I'm saying we kill her and I collect a million and we live like the kings and queens we are.
Vanessa: I do BC it bothers me.
Vanessa: "So she has a million in life insurance."
Jerry: "Then let's kill her."
Jerry: "There's over a million in her dad's safe. I'm saying I won't get caught."
Vanessa: "Stealing it/"
Jerry: "Whatever babe."
Vanessa: "We aren't criminals."
Jerry: "OK babe."
Vanessa: And we don't care about money. At least I don't."
Jerry: "I don't either but I'm saying we have a way if we choose to. I'm not even joking. All I want is you babe. That's all I care about."
The woman who found the text messages told police she had been married to McDonald for the past two years but had known him for 20 years.
She said in all the time she had known him she had never heard him even joke about the type of material that was in the text messages.
She said she feared for her life and was unsure what McDonald was capable of.
A detective said, "Upon looking at the messages I found Mr. McDonald's requests to Ms. Nelson to kill Victim 1. I further found that Mr. McDonald states what financial benefits the two of them would get if Victim 1 was killed."