A stolen credit card led police to suspect a tenant in the slaying of local real estate agent Herta Bailey.
Columbus police say Ricky L. Powell, 39, used Bailey's credit card to pay two utility bills, one to the Columbus Water Works and another to Atmos Energy. Investigators said that after obtaining a security camera video of Powell making one of those payments, they first confirmed his identity and then staked out the 5364 Pine Needle Drive home Powell apparently had leased from Bailey. Muscogee tax records show Bailey and her husband owned the house in Columbus' Windtree neighborhood off Macon Road.
Powell was not home when police got there Tuesday, so they waited and arrested him when he arrived. Officers investigating Bailey's disappearance had obtained a warrant for Powell on a charge of financial transaction card fraud, they said.
After his arrest, Powell took police to the 1300 Block of 51st Street, where he had left Bailey's 1999 Mustang convertible with her body in the trunk, authorities said. They said Bailey, 70, of No. 2 Oliver Court in Columbus, was strangled to death. She was pronounced dead at 9:40 p.m. by Muscogee Deputy Coroner Pam Smith. The body was sent to Atlanta for an autopsy.
The investigation into Bailey's disappearance was launched Tuesday when the real estate agent missed two appointments, one in the morning and another at noon. She worked for Land Inc. at 5710 Whitesville Road, where her employer, Jack Land, found droplets of blood in the business' back offices and on its back porch. Land called Bailey's family, who alerted police.
Investigators began going back through Bailey's appointment book, and found the last appointment she had not missed was with Powell. That was on Monday evening, apparently, as Land said he last saw Bailey between 5 and 6 p.m. that day. Police then started tracking her credit card.
Authorities said the blood found in Land's business likely came from Bailey's sustaining a blow to the head. They said Powell had defaulted on payments to Bailey and apparently was to be evicted.
Besides credit card fraud, Powell faces charges of murder, kidnapping, motor vehicle theft and parole violation, police said. He is to have an initial hearing in Columbus Recorder's Court at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Bailey's daughters, Tina Womack and Eileen Oravik, and her son, Alan Bailey, said their mother was a kind woman who loved her church, Trinity Episcopal, her grandchildren and her country.
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