Joseph “Charley” Yates and Ellen McKenzie – UPDATE!!!


American Legion Post #95 House Manager and Judge Advocate Steve Hemstreet reports that we raised just over $3,000 Wednesday night and that we need to reach $4,000 to completely cover all of the funeral and burial expenses.  We need your help!  ChattanoogaEntertainers.Com is giving $50 – Will you match that?  If you can’t give $50, please give whatever you can – $5, $10, $25 – every little bit helps.  And, PLEASE, pass this on to all of your Facebook friends.

Please make your check out to American Legion Post #95, put Charley Yates & Ellie McKenzie in the “For” box, and mail it to:

American Legion #95
POB 9093
East Ridge TN 37412


East Ridge Couple Who Died In Apparent Murder-Suicide Remembered As Very Close

February 3rd, 2017 by Shelly Bradbury

Photo by Craig Kirk Tyndall

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 1/31/17. East Ridge Police spent Tuesday morning investigating an apparent murder-suicide in a home at 3552 Shelby Circle after a mail carrier discovered a note in the home’s mailbox informing them to call the police.
East Ridge Police spent Tuesday morning investigating an…Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Something was a little different when Joseph “Charley” Yates and Ellen McKenzie showed up at the American Legion’s open mic session last Wednesday.

They were vibrant.

McKenzie, who was often forced to stay home sick, came out, and she was happy, energetic, talking to everyone. Yates, a regular performer, sang a song he’d written just for McKenzie, a song he didn’t typically perform on Wednesday nights.

“It was really passionate,” said friend Danielle Bucher. “You could just tell it was very, I don’t know, full of life. They seemed happy. Everybody just thought it was a good day. You don’t think about it until afterward, when you look back “

Now, she wonders if her friends were saying goodbye.

On Tuesday, a mail carrier found a note in the couple’s mailbox in East Ridge that warned of a murder-suicide inside. Police officers arrived at the home on Shelby Circle to find Yates, 54, and McKenzie, 48, already dead, lying on a bed with gunshot wounds to both their heads.

A shotgun lay atop Yates’ body.

In the den, police found the body of a small dog, also shot in the head. A suicide letter was on the kitchen table, signed by just one person — although police wouldn’t say who on Thursday.

The motive for their deaths is still under investigation, Capt. Tim Mullinax said. The letter did not spell out a “direct motive,” he said.

As the police investigate, the couple’s friends are trying to understand how a couple who had been together for years and seemed very much in love could die so violently and so abruptly.

“We just want to know what happened,” said friend Angela Terry.

McKenzie was sick, her friends said, and had been for a long time. She was hospitalized several times last year. She didn’t work, and Yates made a living as a musician, so money was often tight.

Yates’ aunt died recently, and that hit him hard, Bucher said.

“His whole life was about music and about taking care of his aunt and Ellen,” she said. “Ellen was his first and only love. Ellen was it.”

He was laid-back, a talented musician with a corny sense of humor who was upbeat, always looking for a solution.

“We’re hearing that financial worries and health worries really drove them into a place of dark sadness,” said friend Shani Hedden Palmer. But she added that they both were happy in the relationship. “If he did this, he did it out of a place of caring, oddly enough. I guarantee you there was no malice. It was just a horrific tragedy.”

Bucher thinks McKenzie also recently ran into trouble with her health insurance. But McKenzie didn’t broadcast her struggles, her friends said.

“Ellen was a very private person,” Terry said. “She kept to herself. But now, if you were her friend, you were her friend for life. She would do anything for you.”

Ellen often helped others, praying with them or offering advice. Friends said she struggled with depression.

On Wednesday, starting at 6 p.m., the American Legion is hosting a memorial concert for the pair; anyone is invited to share stories or donate to help pay for their funerals.

Sometimes when Yates played at the Legion, a small group would stay well past the normal 9 p.m. closing time, sitting around with their guitars, listening to Yates, strumming along.

Although sickness often kept McKenzie at home, when she did make it out to a Wednesday open mic session, she’d sit in the audience while Yates sang, scribbling lyrics.

Last January, she posted a photo of a handwritten note on Facebook with lyrics from a Rod Stewart song.

“You’re in my heart. You’re in my soul. You’ll be my breath, should I grow old.”

We need everyone’s help to ensure theses two families have what they need to give our friends a proper goodbye. We would love to have any and all musician friends be a part to show our love in the loss of our two precious friends.
Words could never express how much we all will miss them and how much or hearts ache at their passing. Music is what they both loved and we want to remember and celebrate their lives and love the one way we know how….Music!
We don’t always understand or know what those we love are going through or the “Why’s” or ” What if’s”. The hard part is going on without them – the reality is now we can choose how we remember them. I chose to celebrate their kind and loving hearts and sweet spirits as they both touched all of our lives in so many ways. Join us in Remembering Charley Yates and Ellen McKenzie.


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