Woman charged in connection with landlord's death

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   Police charged a woman Monday in connection with the death of her landlord of several years, Roberta Woods, whose body was found on Friday inside the Roan Mountain home she owned. Woods had been missing since Jan. 14 this year.
   Connie Ruth Hughes, 44, of 369 Garrison Hollow Road, was charged with abuse of a corpse and filing a false report. She was arraigned in General Sessions Court Monday and is being held without bond in the Carter County Jail, according to Sheriff John Henson. Further charges against Hughes are pending an autopsy report on Woods and tests on forensic evidence, Henson said.
   "We're waiting on everything else before other charges are placed," he said.
   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 definition that led to charges being 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."
   Woods' son found the body of his mother nearly 11 months to the day after she disappeared.
   In June of this year, Woods' family offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to her whereabouts.
   Woods lived alone in a residence on Lynnwood Street and rented the residence at 381 Bear Branch Road, Roan Mountain, to Hughes for several years. That residence is where her body was found Friday night, wrapped and stored underneath a waterbed with mothballs.
   "She was wrapped in a carpet, two coats of plastic and duct tape," Henson said. "The carpet, in my opinion, was to keep the body from leaking, and the plastic was to keep the smell from getting out, and the moth balls, too, in my opinion, were to keep the smell in."
   Woods' body was stored between the bed frame and the floor. "She was down on the floor underneath the plywood on the bed," Henson said. "It was completely sealed in so there was no way someone could have seen her."
   Investigators have not yet established a time and cause of death, according to Henson. A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation mobile crime lab responded to the scene on Saturday to process evidence.
   Woods' body was removed from the residence on Sunday afternoon to be sent for autopsy.