Hughes Indicted By Grand Jury In Death Of Woods

Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   A Carter County grand jury handed down an indictment on Tuesday charging a Carter County woman in the death of her landlady more than a year ago.
   Connie Ruth Hughes, 44, 369 Garrison Hollow Rd., was indicted by the grand jury on charges of first degree murder, abuse of a corpse, filing a false report and forgery. All four of the charges placed against Hughes by the indictment are felonies.
   Hughes is charged in connection with the death of 59-year-old Roberta Woods of Roan Mountain.
   Woods was reported missing in January 2003 and her son discovered her body on Dec. 12, 2003, 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 on Jan. 14, 2003.
   According to testimony at a preliminary hearing held for Hughes in Carter County General Sessions Court, a cause of death could not be determined for Woods due to the advanced decomposition of her body, but Hughes reportedly told investigators that the woman had been shot.
   Carter County Sheriff's Department Lt. Randy Bowers, of the Criminal Investigations Division, testified during the preliminary hearing that, after Woods' body was found, Hughes told investigators first that Woods had shot herself. Then, in a subsequent interview, she changed her story and said that a man named Richard Winters who had lived in the residence on Bear Branch Road with Hughes when Hughes first moved in had shot Woods.
   Hughes' story about how Roberta Woods' body ended up under the bed inside the residence also changed, according to Bowers. At first Hughes said she placed the body underneath the bed, according to Bowers, and then she later said Winters had placed the body under the bed. She also had two stories about the murder weapon, according to the investigator.
   At first she told police that the gun had been underneath the bed with Roberta Woods' body, and then she said that Winters had the firearm, which she described as a handgun, Bowers said during the hearing.
   Under cross examination by Hughes' attorney, Stacy Street, Bowers said investigators considered the possibility of Winters as a suspect but said that Winters was seen at a dentist's office and then went to work at the Highway Department on the day and during the time Hughes said he killed Woods. Bowers also said that records at both locations show him as having been at those places.
   Hughes is scheduled to appear in Carter County Criminal Court on May 14. She is currently free on a $125,000 corporate bond which was set by General Sessions Court Judge John Walton in January.