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Police make arrest in Kayla Qualls murder

Posted on Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 8:40 am

  By WAYNE THOMAS, Staff Writer

Photo provided--Michael Curtis, 49, of Tullahoma.

A Tullahoma man was arrested Wednesday and charged with first-degree murder in the death of a young Tullahoma mother, authorities have announced.

During a press conference held Wednesday night at Tullahoma City Hall, police said that Michael L. Curtis, 49, of 603 General St., Tullahoma, had been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Kayla Qualls, 23, of 1813 E. Lincoln St., Tullahoma.

Curtis is said to be the father of Qualls’ former boyfriend and the grandfather of her two children. He is being held under $1 million bond in the Coffee County Jail.

Qualls’ body was found around 11 a.m. Monday by two hunters in a wooded area off Spring Creek Road in Franklin County. According to authorities, the young mother of two died of blunt force trauma to the head.

According to investigators, Qualls was killed at 603 General St., and then placed in her SUV and driven to the wooded area in Franklin County.

“She was definitely killed in Tullahoma,” said Franklin County Sheriff Tim Fuller.

The location of the crime scene prompted investigators from Franklin and Coffee counties, along with the TBI and the Tullahoma Police Department, to work together on the investigation. Tullahoma Police Chief Paul Blackwell stated during the press conference that the agencies worked together and were able to “do Kayla justice.”

The Coffee and Franklin counties sheriffs’ departments, TBI and the Tullahoma Police Department “conducted a search warrant at 603 General St. in Tullahoma and collected evidence in this case,” Fuller told a group of reporters Wednesday night.

Fuller said that during the search Curtis “made statements that implicated himself” in the case. The sheriff would not say what statements were made. He did say that investigators are not excluding the fact that others may be involved in the case.

The sheriff would not say what the motive for the murder was. He stated that the information would come out during a trial.

Fuller told reporters that investigators who appeared with the sheriff and Blackwell at the news conference worked long hours chasing down leads and following up on evidence gathered in this case.

When asked if there had been a history of violence between Qualls and the Curtis family, Fuller stated that there were no “documented” cases, but there had been a history of court issues between the father of the children and Qualls. Fuller also stated that the father of the children and Curtis have criminal records.

Coffee County Sheriff Steve Graves would not elaborate on what the motive for the murder was.

“We will wait for that to come out in court,” Graves said.

When asked by reporters why Qualls was at the Curtis residence, law enforcement officers would not elaborate.

Curtis is being held in the Coffee County Jail under a $1 million bond and is to appear in Coffee County General Session Court Monday.

A fund has been set up for Qualls’ two children at the Moore County Bank and the First Community Bank in Shelbyville.

Also, friends and family members of Qualls are expressing their thoughts and feelings about her death on a Facebook page, where donations for her children are also being collected. To visit the page, go to “Remembering Kayla Qualls.”

Curtis is being held under a $1 million bond.

Wayne Thomas may be reached by email at