A 40-year-old woman from Avondale, Alabama, has been charged with capital murder in the case of a missing person that went cold for 20 years.
Tricia Abney, a former stripper, is accused of beating, stabbing and dismembering 23-year-old Justin Barnett in June 1995. She reportedly committed the crime with her then-boyfriend.
The case had gone cold until a witness who wanted to ease his conscience contacted the Birmingham Police Department’s Cold Case Unit investigators, reports AL.com. Detective Jonathan Ross said authorities never found the remains.
Ross said the witness could not bear the burden of his secret. “He said he knew of a murder case that happened 20 years ago,” Ross said, “He had dealt with it for 20 years and it was eating up his conscience.”
Ross said Abney worked as a dancer at Sammy’s, a strip club, when she committed the murder. Abney, who has also gone by multiple aliases, reportedly brought Barnett to an apartment where she and her boyfriend planned to rob him.
But the plan went bad. “They dismembered his body in the apartment and drove the remains to Centreville in Bibb County,” Ross said.
The boyfriend allegedly buried the remains and they cleaned the apartment.
Officers used dogs to try to find Barnett's body but were unsuccessful. Earlier this month, officers tried to interview the boyfriend, but he refused to cooperate. He had moved away, gotten married, and was “living a normal life,” Ross said.
Less than one week after the police tried to interview him, he killed himself. That same day, Abney was arrested.
“Nobody knew the exact location except for the guy who killed himself,” Ross said after looking for the body multiple times with dogs. “He was the one who dug the hole.”
Ross said Abney confessed to the killing. She’s currently being held without bail. She had previously been convicted of three felonies; two for drugs and another for burglary.
Like her ex-boyfriend, she had been living her life as if nothing had happened. She went to college and frequently posted inspirational messages on her Facebook page. Two days before her arrest, she posted an image that reads “Never let you past determine your future,” reports NY Daily News. In another post, she said that murderers should die.
Ross said the victim’s family was happy, “Although they wanted to see the second suspect in court, also, but they were happy.”