Nine days before Fort Valley State University student Anitra Gunn vanished without a trace on Valentine’s Day, her boyfriend allegedly smashed her apartment windows and slashed her car’s tires, authorities said.
On Tuesday evening, the Fort Valley, Georgia Police Department found Gunn’s body “partially covered” with sticks in a wooded area near a two-lane Crawford County road. Hours later, they declared DeMarcus Little, 23, a person of interest in her “death investigation.”
“Thank you to all who helped search and post and call and prayed for Anitra’s return. We are processing the devastating news and kindly ask for respect and privacy during this time as we wrap our hearts and minds around all of this,” her father, Christopher Gunn, said in a statement to The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “Please continue to pray for us as there are no words to describe this hurt. Information regarding services and where donations may be sent will be forthcoming.”
Little has not been charged in connection with the 23-year-old student’s death, but a police spokesperson told The Daily Beast “charges may be forthcoming.”
He was charged on Tuesday with criminal damage to property for allegedly smashing Gunn’s apartment window and slashing her tires on Feb. 5. He is currently being held without bond.
“I think it’s pretty common sense who our person of interest is,” Peach County Sheriff Terry Deese said during a Tuesday press conference. “It’s the boyfriend. We’ve talked to him three times.”
Gunn, a senior majoring in agriculture, was last seen on Feb. 14 at around 11:30 a.m. at the home of Little’s aunt just outside of Fort Valley. Her family called police the next morning, stating that they had not been in contact with her for an “unusual amount of time,” authorities said.
A welfare check was conducted at Gunn’s apartment after friends also said the 23-year-old wasn’t answering any phone calls or messages, but investigators didn’t find anything suspicious at her place.
“She never texted them back, didn’t call them back. That’s when we knew something is definitely out of whack," Christopher Gunn told WMAZ-TV.
The next day, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said the student’s white 2013 Chevrolet Cruze was found in a neighbor’s yard with the front bumper torn off and her wallet still inside. By Monday, multiple agencies and two dozen volunteers began to frantically look for Gunn, even calling in the Georgia State Patrol Aviation Unit to conduct an aerial search.
At about 3:20 p.m. on Tuesday, a Peach County deputy on patrol found Gunn’s body off the road, partially covered “very close” to a piece of the missing bumper—hours after announcing a $5,000 reward for information on her location. The Fort Valley Department of Public Safety said Wednesday the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab confirmed that the body recovered on the side of the road was Gunn.
An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday to determine the cause and manner of death, authorities said.
“We’re not saying it is a homicide, but the car shows up in Fort Valley,” Deese said. “It didn’t show up by itself. She couldn’t have driven it there herself.”