The small community of Locust Grove, Georgia, is mourning the loss of a beloved business owner and mother of two, Erica Atkins.
According to CBS, Atkins, 42, was found dead in Cedar Creek, Putnam County, after being reported missing on Sunday.
Atkins’ former boyfriend and employee, 38-year-old Romero Johnson, was arrested and charged with kidnapping and murder in connection with her death.
Johnson was immediately considered a person of interest when the police responded to a report of a missing person at Atkins’ home on Sunday, and investigators determined that there were suspicious circumstances surrounding her disappearance.
According to a Locust Grove police report on 11Alive, Johnson “willfully and knowingly” abducted his former girlfriend between 11:30 p.m. on March 4 and 12:30 a.m. on March 5. He dragged a body-sized sheet from Atkins’ garage to conceal her body and placed it into the rear of his car.
Detectives obtained surveillance video footage showing Johnson placing the body into his vehicle. Human blood was discovered in the rear passenger compartment of Johnson’s vehicle, and the car had been cleaned and vacuumed. The police found blood and one of Atkins’ earrings at the same location on the driveway where Johnson allegedly dragged her.
Johnson faces murder and kidnapping charges in connection with her death.
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Atkins’ daughter, Jasmine Atkins, told the media that her family was devastated.
“We’re hurting. She kept everyone together,” she said.
Birdsong Books’ Facebook and Instagram pages have been filled with an outpouring of grief in the wake of the tragic news. Users have shared their memories of Atkins, including one who said that she was “one of [their] childhood best friends,” and that they would miss her.
The news of Atkins’ death has also prompted organizations to remind people of the resources available for victims of domestic violence.
As the community continues to grieve, we are sending our thoughts and prayers to her family.