Accused killer Connie Hughes makes bond

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   A Carter County woman who was charged last month with first degree murder in the death of her landlord was released on bond from the Unicoi County Jail Monday.
   Connie Ruth Hughes, 44, 369 Garrison Hollow Rd., was released on a $125,000 corporate bond after negotiating with a bonding company. She was being held in Unicoi on charges from Carter County.
   At Hughes' arraignment a judge mandated that her bond be a corporate bond -- a bond made by a professional bonding company allowing the company to track down an individual who fails to show up for court.
   According to police, Hughes was being held in Unicoi County because she encountered problems with inmates at the Carter County Jail who new Roberta Woods, the woman Hughes is charged with killing.
   Hughes was taken into custody on Jan. 27 and charged with first degree murder in the death of Woods. She was previously arrested and charged on Dec. 15 with filing a false report and abuse of a corpse in Woods' death.
   According to state law, abuse of a corpse occurs when a person knowingly either " ... physically mistreats a corpse in a manner offensive to the sensibilities of an ordinary person; disinters a corpse that has been buried or otherwise interred; or disposes of a corpse in a manner known to be in violation of law."
   It is the third part of the law's definition that led to charges filed against Hughes. "It's illegal to hide a corpse," Henson said. "It's illegal disposal of a corpse; that's what it boils down to."
   A final autopsy report has not been issued yet, Carter County Sheriff John Henson said at the time Hughes was charged. "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 would not comment on a cause of death because the autopsy report was incomplete. He said investigators have still not determined a motive in the murder.
   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 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," and a premeditated killing is defined as an "act done after the exercise of reflection and judgment."
   If Hughes is convicted she could face life in prison, life in prison without the possibility of parole, or execution.