The beloved owner of a popular Atlanta-area bookstore was found dead in a creek — and one of her employees, a former boyfriend, has been accused of her kidnapping and murder.
The body of Erica Atkins, a mother of two and the owner of Birdsong Books in Locust Grove, Ga., which is just south of Atlanta, was found by a fisherman in Cedar Creek on Monday afternoon, ABC reports.
Cedar Creek is several miles from Atkins’ bookstore. Atkins, 42, had been reported missing on Sunday.
Local news outlet 11Alive reported that 38-year-old Romero Johnson, an employee and former romantic partner of Atkins’, was arrested and charged with kidnapping and murder in connection with her death.
It was not immediately clear if Johnson has entered a plea or retained an attorney.
The victim’s daughter, Jasmine Atkins, said the family was devastated. “We’re hurting. She kept everyone together,” she told the outlet.
Investigators used cameras to track down Johnson after he was identified as a suspect. The father of Atkins’ youngest child told Fox 5 Atlanta he was aware Johnson had dated the bookstore owner, but she had broken up with him.
A warrant cited by 11Alive says surveillance video showed a person “grab a sheet or plastic lining from the garage and take it to cover Atkins’ body in the driveway [of her home].”
Atkins was a beloved business owner and her bookstore would regularly host community events. An outpouring of grief has been shared on Birdsong Books’ Facebook and Instagram pages in the wake of the tragic news.
“Seems so unreal, she was [one of] my childhood best friends, praying for her kids and family. I’m going to miss you Erica,” a user with the handle daniellelovett30 shared under an Instagram video of Atkins dancing in the bookstore.