GBI: Boyfriend 'one of many' suspects after body recovered in Warm Springs

tstevens@ledger-enquirer.com; benw@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 18, 2013 

Update (11:59 a.m.):

GBI Special Agent Wayne Smith said the boyfriend of Annie Belle Garrett was arrested Wednesday for possession of a firearm, but is still only "one of many" suspects in Garrett's disappearance.

"He was a convicted felon, so he was arrested for possessing the gun," Smith said. "But he hasn't been charged with murder or anything."

The name of the boyfriend or other suspects was not released. No further updates were available.

Original story

WARM SPRINGS, Ga. — The body of missing Annie Belle Garrett of Shiloh may have been recovered from a shallow grave in rural Warm Springs and the woman’s boyfriend is now facing questions from authorities, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said late Wednesday.

The body was discovered about 3 a.m. while the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and Shiloh Police were searching for Garrett, who is related to Shiloh Mayor Jesse Ellison. Garrett was reported missing early Tuesday morning when a coworker attempted to give her a ride to Cagles Chicken Plant in Pine Mountain. The search for the woman led to the property in Meriwether County, about 40 miles northeast of Columbus.

GBI Special Agent Wayne Smith described the body as black and female, but officers didn’t examine it further.

“By it being a burial like that, we especially don’t want to disturb it very much because they will methodically go through it in a lab setting,” Smith said. “The black female body is consistent with sex and race of the person that’s missing. We know that much.”

Smith didn’t identify the boyfriend but said he was being questioned at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office about 6:30 p.m. The grave was discovered about 20 yards from a family home of the boyfriend where Garrett and the man lived.

“The boyfriend was living with her at that residence up until she went missing, so he has access to the residence obviously,” Smith said. “It was jointly rented by both of them.”

Smith said authorities are talking to him to verify his version of events. The woman’s body was sent to the crime lab in Atlanta for an autopsy. Her car was taken to Columbus where it will be processed today.

The grave on the property wasn’t dug haphazardly, the agent said. “This one was pretty deep and pretty well dug,” he said. “She was totally covered. I don’t know if she would have been found if we hadn’t had some indication to look at the property in this area.”

The Warm Springs property is about 20 to 25 miles from the woman’s residence in Shiloh. The Meriwether County Sheriff’s Office joined Harris County authorities after the investigation led to several locations in Meriwhether County.

No positive identification has been made on the body. “It’s reasonable that it’s this missing lady,” Smith said.

As part of the investigation, Smith said the woman’s single-wide mobile home also was searched. Smith confirmed the woman is related to the mayor of Shiloh. Garrett was in her early 50s.

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