Nearly a month after a charred body was found at Harbison Drive and Head Street, Columbus authorities have identified the victim in the slaying and charged four men in connection with the case.
Michael Fleming, 34, of Columbus was officially identified Monday as the victim who was found inside the trunk of a 2006 Pontiac G6 around 5:37 a.m. July 10, Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan said. DNA from the victim’s parents helped identify the body that was charred beyond recognition and had no facial features or fingers.
The coroner said Fleming’s parents went to authorities about a week after the body was found and said their son may have been the victim of a homicide. He died of two gunshots, one to the head and another to the hip. Saliva from both parents matched DNA of the victim.
Fleming’s name was released by police Tuesday morning, hours after 56-year-old Alexander Jackson pleaded not guilty in Columbus Recorder’s Court to tampering with evidence at the scene of the shooting.
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No location has been disclosed yet in the shooting but Jackson is accused of cleaning up blood and evidence at the scene.
“It’s our understanding from witness testimony that he was instructed to get rid of the blood and the biological evidence that was left at the scene,” Columbus Police Sgt. Lance Deaton testified in court. “He poured accelerant on it, put it in the fire and stood over it for quite some time, constantly feeding the fire to make sure that the blood and the biological evidence was disposed of.”
Less than 24 hours before the burned body was found in the Pontiac’s trunk, police said the vehicle was carjacked at 2936 North Lumpkin Road on July 9. Three men hijacked the car from a woman at the Big Cat Fuels gas station, authorities said.
Darious Jamal Robinson, 18, Marquis Lamar Johnson, 20, and Fredret Shamar Culliver, 17, were identified as the suspects in the carjacking.
Johnson allegedly aimed a weapon at the woman and demanded her property during the carjacking, police said.
Authorities said she threw her wallet, keys and cellphone on the ground, and a suspect grabbed the keys and wallet. All three men got into the woman’s 2006 Pontiac G6 and left, leaving the cellphone behind, Deaton said.
Robinson is accused of driving the stolen car to the Circle K at 2102 Wynnton Road. The other two suspects left the vehicle with weapons and robbed the gas station around 10:19 p.m., according to police.
Deaton said Robinson then drove them to a Circle K in Alabama, where police said all three of the men robbed that store.
No murder warrants have been issued in connection with the death. Police have also not released any additional information about the case.