Murder: Hughes charged in Woods' death

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   A 44-year-old woman police charged with abuse of a corpse and filing a false report in connection with the death of her landlord was charged Tuesday morning with first degree murder in the woman's death.
   Connie Ruth Hughes, of 369 Garrison Hollow Rd., was taken into custody around 9 a.m. on Tuesday by Carter County Sheriff's Department officers on a warrant charging her with first degree murder in the death of Roberta Woods.
   According to Carter County Sheriff John Henson, Hughes appeared in General Sessions Court on Tuesday and her bond was set at $125,000. By a judge's order her bond must be a corporate bond -- a bond made by a professional bonding company allowing the company to track down an individual if they fail to show up for their court date. Hughes is currently being held in the Unicoi County Jail.
   The final report from an autopsy performed on Woods' body has not been issued yet, according to Henson. "We still do not have all of the lab work back yet but we do have enough probable cause to go ahead with a first degree murder charge," he said. Henson said he would not comment on a cause of death due to the autopsy report being incomplete.
   Woods, who was age 59 at the time of her death, was reported missing on Jan. 14, 2003 after she did not show up for work. In June of 2003, family members offered a reward for information leading to the whereabouts of Woods.
   Woods' son found the body of his mother on Dec. 12, nearly 11 months to the day after she disappeared. The body was discovered underneath a water bed in the residence at 381 Bear Branch Rd., Roan Mountain, which Hughes had rented from Woods for a number of years. "She was wrapped in a carpet, two coats of plastic and duct tape," Henson said at the time the body was discovered.
   Investigators believe her body had been in the Roan Mountain residence since the time of her disappearance.
   According to state law, first degree murder is the "premeditated and intentional killing of another". A premeditated killing is an "act done after the exercise of reflection and judgment."
   If Hughes is convicted of first degree murder she could face life in prison, life in prison without the possibility of parole or even execution as a possible sentence for the conviction according to state law.