Mother speaks out after son stabbed to death: ‘You was that mad over a cigarette?’

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When Yolanda Burse saw the blue lights on her way home Saturday, she knew it wasn't anything good.

"But never in a million years did I think that was my son," said Burse.

That was something she learned Sunday.

Burse said her son, 28-year-old Cortez Brown, leaves behind a 5-year-old son.

She said Brown was walking to a friend's house when a strange man approached him and asked for his last cigarette. When Brown declined to give it to him, she said the man began stabbing her son.

She said she was told her son then ran to the Sonic on the 3500 block of Covington Pike for help as the knife-wielding man pursued him.

"My son was fighting. He was fighting for his life over a cigarette," Burse said.

Police said 21-year-old Markell Austin approached them and admitted to the crime.

Sources told WREG he has a history of emergency mental health committments. WREG has also learned he walked away from a Frayser group home for people with mental health problems in October.

"If he was able to get the help that he needed, my son would still be alive," Burse said.

Austin's former foster father told WREG Austin didn't have any mental health problems when he stayed with him, but that was at least five years ago.

As she plans her son's funeral, Burse is hoping that Austin stays in custody.

"He needs to stay where he is. Would you want him on the street with your children walking the street?"

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