A woman vanished after she was last seen visiting her car mechanic’s shop in Alabama — then her body was found days later, deputies said.
Now, the mechanic is charged with capital murder.
Michelle Hough, 54, visited her car mechanic the afternoon of Nov. 5, according to Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor. The mechanic, 58-year-old Kenneth Lawhorn, had done work on her vehicles before, the sheriff said, and he was working with her to find a vehicle for her son at the time.
Surveillance footage shows Hough entering Lawhorn’s body shop, but she was never seen leaving, Taylor said in a Nov. 10 news conference shared by WTVM.
After Hough arrived, Lawhorn was seen leaving the shop with Hough’s car attached to a tractor trailer, Taylor said. He drove off with her vehicle and returned to his shop without it, Taylor said.
Then officials received a report that a vehicle was burning on the side of the road in Seale, Alabama, Taylor and the Russell County Sheriff’s Office said.
Hough’s husband came in the next morning to report her missing, and further investigation revealed the car found burning belonged to Hough, according to the sheriff.
Hough’s body was not in the burned vehicle, Taylor said.
Lawhorn was first charged with theft and arson in connection with the burned vehicle as officials continued searching for Hough.
As the investigation progressed, officials said they had reason to believe Hough was dead and Lawhorn had disposed of her body, Taylor said.
“We do have enough evidence to prove that Mr. Lawhorn is responsible for the death of Ms. Hough,” Taylor said at the news conference hours before Hough’s body was discovered.
The charges were upgraded to capital murder kidnapping and capital murder robbery before her body was found.
Taylor asked the public for assistance locating Hough, saying that Lawhorn was “combative” and lied about the circumstances surrounding Hough’s disappearance, Taylor said.
“He told us that it wasn’t her car he towed off, and we verified 100% it was her car,” Taylor said. “He told us different things like that, that she drove off, we know she didn’t drive off.”
The video surveillance memory card showing the inside of his business is also missing, Taylor said.
On Nov. 10, investigators discovered Hough’s body, five days after she was last seen, according to an updated news release from deputies.
Her body was sent to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences for an autopsy. The cause of death has not been shared as of Nov. 13.
Russell County is about 80 miles east of Montgomery.