When Atlanta-area resident, Rochelle Alicia Thomas (pictured left), 30, did not return home Tuesday evening, her two sons, mother and sister began to worry. When she still had not returned by Wednesday, they called police to report her missing. Unfortunately, their anxiety was justified. Wednesday night, police found a half-clothed woman’s body behind a Jonesboro, GA apartment complex and positively identified her as Thomas. She had been strangled to death, reports 11Alive.com.
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Jonesboro Police Chief, Franklin Allen, said that it was initially difficult to identify Thomas:
Her mother called the Riverdale police and reported her missing. But she didn’t have any identification on her when she was found, so we had no way of knowing immediately where to look to identify her.
Thomas’s 15-year-old son, Alex, who knew that his mother’s routine included going to the gym, said that he thought she was just running late:
I thought maybe it would just be a half hour later, she would be home.
Her 11-year-old son, Shamar, said that he grew even more concerned when she didn’t call them:
I called her and she didn’t answer. I thought she would call back, but we kept trying and she wouldn’t answer.
Thomas’ accused killer, Nehemiah Johnson, Jr.,was charged with her murder this morning. He was already in Clayton County after being arrested on unrelated charges of kidnapping, burglary and battery, reports 11Alive.
Thomas’s friend, Antwan Wright, said that she had called him three weeks ago saying that someone had slashed car tires and that she feared for her life:
That was why she said she was going to put up some surveillance camera around her home. She was a very doting mother, very caring, and just a very lovely young lady, and it is just a terrible shame. It is a terrible tragedy that has taken place.
Police and acquaintances say that Thomas was a former prostitute with a history of drugs; Wright begs to differ. He says that Thomas was an excellent mother and had worked hard to turn her life around for the better:
“I heard rumors about, something to the effect that she was prostituting, and all that stuff that is definitely not the case,” Wright says.
Wright claims that she ran a legitimate massage business out of her home; police claim that she was trading sex for money and that Johnson was one of her clients.
When first learning of her daughter’s murder, Thomas’s mother, Beverly Thomas, said that God needed to help whomever had done the horrible deed because they had caused so much devastation in her family. Upon hearing that Johnson had been charged, she voiced her appreciation for law enforcement:
Everything’s much better now, so much better. I’m thankful they [police] have been very thorough and they moved so fast.
At press time, authorities were still searching for two accomplices whom they believe had nothing to do with Thomas’ death, but helped to hide the crime:
At some point another individual returned to that apartment, who was not a primary participant in the crime, but returned there and attempted to sanitize and destroy evidence.
See original report on Rochelle Thomas’ disappearance below: