Man and woman accused of dumping body at cemetery, Columbus police say
After a night of abusing crack cocaine, a woman who had heart problems fell ill and died before her partially disrobed body was dumped along the road at Green Acres Cemetery, a Columbus police detective said Thursday in Recorder’s Court.
Benito Lewis, 51, and Sherry Roach, 58, both of Columbus pleaded not guilty to one felony count each of concealing the death of 34-year-old Michelle Diane Chambers. Judge Julius Hunter set the bond at $20,000 for Lewis and $10,000 for Roach and bound the charges over to Muscogee Superior Court.
Police detective Sherman Hayes said an investigation into the death started March 4 after Lewis surrendered to police on a theft by taking motor vehicle charge after he didn’t return the vehicle he borrowed. During his arrest, Lewis uttered that police needed to investigate the body at Green Acres Cemetery.
Authorities went to the 1485 Schatulga Road location and found a partially dressed woman beside the road at the cemetery.
Lewis said the woman was a good friend of his. He said on the night of March 3 they ended up at a house party with drugs and she became ill in a back bedroom. The two then went to Roach’s home at 770 Black Oak Drive, where Lewis paid $50 to rent a bedroom where they could drink alcohol and use drugs.
Hayes said the woman died inside the house, but Roach didn’t want the police there because she was on probation and had drugs. Lewis knew the woman’s relatives and could have called police but didn’t before he and Lewis took the body to Green Acres and dropped it off, the detective said.
Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan wasn’t in court but said an autopsy was completed on May 25 and determined that Chambers died of acute cocaine intoxication and hypertensive cardiovascular disease. No alcohol was found in her system, but she had health problems with blocked arteries.
Roach and Lewis told police they didn’t kill Chambers. Warrants were issued a week ago before both were taken into custody Wednesday.
Alfonza Whitaker, who represented Lewis, said his client cooperated with police. “Actions of the defendant didn’t cause the death,” he said.