The beloved owner of a popular Atlanta-area bookstore was found dead in a creek — and one of her employees, a former boyfriend, has been accused of her kidnapping and murder.
The body of Erica Atkins, a 42-year-old mother of two and the owner of Birdsong Books in Henry County, was discovered by a fisherman in Cedar Creek in Putnam County around 1:15 p.m. on Monday the Henry County Sheriff’s Office told local outlet 11Alive.
Atkins — who had been reported missing on Sunday — was found about an hour’s drive from the bookstore. Police said they believe she was killed in Henry County and that her body was then dumped in nearby Putnam County.
Her employee, Romero Johnson, 38, was arrested and charged with kidnapping and murdering Atkins, police said.
Atkins and Johnson had also previously dated before she broke it off, the father of her youngest child told Fox 5 Atlanta.
Atkins’ death has left her local community in shock. A makeshift memorial of flowers was erected in front of the Locust Grove bookstore.
“I still have a sick feeling in my stomach, in my head. I just keep thinking about her,” Atkins’ friend Shanna Amoah told 11Alive.
“It just floored me. Basically, it floored me beyond measure. I was just completely devastated,” Amoah said.
Amoah said that Atkins was a beloved “pillar” of the community and had just won a Small Business of the Year award from the local chamber of commerce.
“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 said.