A beloved Georgia bookshop owner’s body was discovered floating in a creek hours after she vanished from her Locust Grove home. The deceased, named as Erica Atkins, was the proprietor of Birdsong Books, according to ABC News. On Sunday, a fisherman discovered the 40-year-old victim’s body in Cedar Creek, according to authorities.
Before her body was discovered, the deceased mother had also been reported missing. Romero Johnson, 38, has subsequently been arrested and charged in her death. Phillip Robinson, Atkins’ brother, told WSB that Johnson and her sister used to date, and that the suspect occasionally worked at the bookshop.
“It was shocking and extremely, extremely painful,” he said. The victim’s father also told FOX 5 Atlanta the suspect was his daughter’s ex-boyfriend. “I met him. They dated. She broke it off. Maybe that played a role,” he said.
The deceased victim was also a mother of two. “I’m really going to miss her,” Atkins’ 21-year-old daughter, Jasmine, told WSB. “My mother was everything to me.”
A friend reportedly contacted police after discovering the victim’s front door had been left open. Johnson was “immediately recognized” as a person of interest, according to police, and was arrested on Sunday. Murder and kidnapping are among the charges leveled against him.
“To dispose of a body like that is just heartbreaking, senseless,” Locust Grove Police Chief Derrick Austin said, adding that footage obtained from the neighborhood showed Johnson had gone to Atkins’ home. Austin also said detectives were able to establish his car had been at a location close to where the victim’s body was disposed of.
The victim’s cause of death is yet to be established. “She grew up loving to read. An avid reader,” Robinson said about his sister. “She would spend hours when we were kids reading aloud.”
The Henry County Chamber of Commerce named Atkins’ bookstore the 2022 Microbusiness of the Year. In a Facebook post, the organization said her “passing is a tremendous loss to the Henry County Chamber of Commerce family and to the business community as a whole.”
Atkins’ friend, Shanna Amoah, also told 11Alive that the news of her death floored her “beyond measure.” She also said she was “just completely devastated.”
“Erica was a busy woman. She was committed to helping her community. She donated books – donated her time. In fact, she came last year to my summer camp and read to my kids – donated her time there,” Amoah added. “Erica was just a pillar in our community. She just won National Small Business of the Year through the Chamber of Commerce.”