Woman charged with suffocating girl — (The Commercial Appeal)

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The Commercial Appeal

By Lawrence Buser

November 27, 2004

Fibers link suspect to August killing, Arkansas investigator says

WEST MEMPHIS — A woman described as a family friend has been charged with capital murder in the August suffocation death of a 7-year-old Gilmore girl whose duct-taped body was found in a field four days after her disappearance, authorities said Friday.

Jo Ann Buchanan, 37, was charged earlier with kidnapping little Patricia Ann Miles on Aug. 15 and now fiber evidence analyzed by the Arkansas Crime Laboratory points to her as the killer as well, said Thomas Martin, a criminal investigator with the Crittenden County Sheriff’s Department.

He said Buchanan, who is being held without bond, has not been cooperative, has given no statement and maintains her innocence. She said at a hearing after her arrest in August that she had been treated at a mental health facility and had been taking antidepressants. No motive for the murder has been established, though there had been instances in which Buchanan antagonized the victim’s family, the investigator added.

“When we told her of the charges, all she said was ‘God knows what really happened. I’m leaving it up to Him,’ ” said Martin, adding that the murder was particularly disturbing. “Since Aug. 15 I’ve worked on this case every day. You take it home with you. I have nightmares about it.”

He said Patricia, who was known as “T.T.” or “Tricia,” was killed where her body was found on Aug. 19, in a field near Denwood in Mississippi County about five miles north of Gilmore. Martin said the child’s hands were duct-taped behind her back, her feet were taped, and her mouth and nose were covered with duct tape, which caused her to suffocate.

He said there was no sign that she had been dragged to the site and that autopsy results show she was still breathing when the duct tape was placed over her mouth and nose. Martin said “substantial fibers” on the tape also linked Buchanan to the crime.

Patricia was seen at a local grocery and then at the home of Buchanan, who sometimes baby-sat her and who had done her hair just two days earlier, Martin said. A witness told authorities he saw Patricia get into Buchanan’s red Plymouth Voyager and that her pink bicycle also was put in the vehicle.

Two other witnesses placed Buchanan at the Denwood field where Patricia’s bicycle and shoes were found the next day, not far from where her body eventually was discovered.

Martin said Buchanan was charged in Crittenden County because that is where the crime originated. He said there appears to have been no one else involved.