It was hard to miss Stephanie Brown’s family and friends Tuesday afternoon.
Though it felt close to 100 degrees outside, there were three generations of people wearing hot pink shirts holding a rally to call for justice for Brown. It’s not common to see such an outward display of support in the parking lot at the Tipton County Justice Center.
“If you knew her you’d understand why we’re all out here,” her fiancé, Stanley Butler, said.
Brown, 31, was shot and killed May 20 after an argument with Raymond “Cole” McDaniel at at his Brighton home. There are varying stories about what happened and whether or not it was self-defense, but McDaniel fired the fatal shot after he and Brown reportedly disagreed about a child custody issue.
Brown’s stepson fathered the child; the child’s mother is engaged to McDaniel.
McDaniel, 22, was arrested and charged with second degree murder. His preliminary hearing in Tipton County General Sessions Court was supposed to take place Tuesday afternoon, however it was reset for Aug. 10 after one of the state’s witnesses hadn’t been served with a subpoena.
In an interview after court, McDaniel’s attorney Jere Mason extended sympathies to the Brown family.
“The McDaniel family and our law office feel for the family of the victim in this case. Any loss of life is tragic,” he said.
He also said he was disappointed the hearing was postponed.
“We want the public to be open-minded to see what did or did not happen. We want the public to see what we think is a defensible case. Tennessee does have laws that allow people to defend themselves.”
Brown’s friends and family members have been advised not to talk about details of the case. They’ve been grieving the devastating loss of the baby of six sisters, a woman they said loved other people well and was well-loved in return.
Brown had four children – 7-year-old Cheyenne, 12-year-old Cattliey, 17-year-old Kaylynn and 22-year-old Chance – and was grandma to Chance’s son, Cayden. She was Aunt NaNa to 26 or 27 nieces and nephews, plus her friends’ children. These are roles she proudly took on.
“When she met a child it instantly became hers,” Brown’s close friend, Katie, said. “That child was family. She was family whether you liked it or not and she loved you so hard.”
“She was the life of the party, she always had a smile on her face, she was loud, she was obnoxious sometimes, she had a laugh that would annoy you and tickle you at the same time,” her sister Jessica Dunlavey said. “She was a soft-pitch coach for her daughter’s team and she was also part of the Bluff City Wine Fairies …”
A proud older sister, Dunlavey continues to say Brown was very generous, kind-hearted and was a spitfire.
“If you were down with her, she had your back no matter what.”
And she loved the grandbaby more than anything. Brown and her mother, Crystal, had taken clothes over to him the night she was killed.
It’s only been five weeks and the grief is still fresh. As Dunlavey talks, Crystal is standing a few feet away and is in tears.
In April Crystal and Stephanie got matching tattoos – Crystal’s first one – and they say “I love you” in each other’s handwriting. Crystal extends her arm and shows the ink on her bicep, now a memorial to the daughter whose life she saw begin and end.
There’s a wide range of emotions, from sorrow to anger, with the group as they shared their memories of her.
“That man took away a lot from us,” Dunlavey said. “So I just hope he knows that. We want justice to be served.”