(LOCUST GROVE, Ga.) — Family and friends are mourning the shocking death of a Georgia bookstore owner whose body was found floating in a creek over the weekend.
Erica Atkins, 40, the owner of Birdsong Books, was found dead hours after she was reported missing from her home in Locust Grove, about 35 miles southeast of Atlanta, police said.
Her body was discovered Sunday by a fisherman in Cedar Creek, several miles from her home, authorities said.
Romero Johnson, 38, faces murder and kidnapping charges in connection with her death, Locust Grove Police said.
Johnson was an ex-boyfriend of Atkins’ who would sometimes work at the bookstore, her brother, Phillip Robinson, told Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB.
“It was shocking and extremely, extremely painful,” Robinson told WSB.
Akins leaves behind a 21-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son, WSB reported.
“I’m really going to miss her,” her daughter, Jasmine Atkins, told WSB. “My mother was everything to me.”
Atkins was reported missing on Sunday, police said. A friend called police after noticing the front door to Atkins’ home was wide open, WSB reported.
Detectives “quickly identified” Johnson as a suspect and he was taken into custody on Sunday for kidnapping, police said in a statement.
Later on Sunday, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office contacted Locust Grove police after finding a dead body that matched the physical description of the kidnapping victim, police said.
“To dispose of a body like that is just heartbreaking, senseless,” Locust Grove Police Chief Derrick Austin told WSB.
Detectives obtained an additional warrant for murder for Johnson, police said. Austin told WSB that neighborhood cameras showed that the suspect had been at the victim’s home, and that detectives tracked his car to Putnam County, near where Atkins was found.
“It’s such a sad situation,” Austin told WSB. “Someone she obviously trusted enough to have at her home, who would do something like this to her.”
Johnson is currently being detained in Henry County Jail. It is unclear if he has an attorney who can speak on his behalf.
Authorities are still working to determine the cause of death.
Flowers have been placed outside Birdsong Books following news of Atkins’ death. The new and used bookstore opened in Locust Grove in late 2021. A bio on the store’s website described Atkins as an “advocate of reading, learning and educating people of all walks of life.”
“She grew up loving to read. An avid reader,” Robinson said of his sister. “She would spend hours when we were kids reading aloud.”
Birdsong Books was named 2022 Microbusiness of the Year by the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, which called Atkins’ death a “tremendous loss” to the community.
“As a business and community leader and a friend, she will be sorely missed,” the chamber of commerce said in a statement on social media Monday.
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