A kidnapping victim in Alabama helped to lead cops to a dead woman’s body, which was discovered in the woods on Friday—a terrifying incident that was the beginning of a violent weekend in Jefferson County.
Police are investigating three homicides, including the murder of 31-year-old Kellie Ann Hughes, who was found dumped in a wooded area near a Birmingham hospital. She’d been fatally shot, according to her brother. On Saturday, 21-year-old Jacoby Johnson and Tyler Robinson, 20, were also found shot to death in a vehicle parked outside an apartment building about 5 miles north. (The latter incident is believed to be drug-related, police say.)
It doesn’t appear the slayings of Kellie and the two men are connected, but police say they believe the kidnapping and Kellie’s death are linked. The disturbing series of events began at 4:42 p.m. Friday, when the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call from a woman who claimed she was being held captive, AL.com reported. The woman didn’t know her exact location, but deputies were able to trace her phone to Woodside Condominiums in Center Point.
When they arrived at the complex, police saw the woman fall down the stairs before rescuing her. Her hands were bound together by zip ties, and she had visible injuries that required treatment. The woman, whose name hasn’t been released, allegedly told deputies she knew about a homicide and her knowledge of this alleged crime could have been the reason for her kidnapping, WBRC reported.
The woman’s information led authorities to the secluded area off Medical Park Drive East, near the St. Vincent’s East medical center. Hours later, around 1:55 a.m., Kellie was discovered and pronounced dead at the scene. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Capt. David Agee said cops don’t yet have a clear motive in Kellie’s murder.
“These are some mean-spirited people,’’ Agee told AL.com of the alleged killers. “We will get them.”
Detectives say they’re on the hunt for two suspects, who haven’t been identified in the press, and that they’ve issued a bulletin for a stolen rental car that might have been involved in the slaying, AL.com reported. Agee, and the sheriff’s office, did not return messages left by The Daily Beast on Monday.
Family and friends are mourning Kellie while her older brother, Branden Hughes, has launched a GoFundMe to pay for her funeral expenses.
Hughes told the Trussville Tribune, a local newspaper covering Jefferson County, that he learned about Kellie’s death through her former husband.
“He called me and said I needed to sit down. They were trying to get in touch with my mother,” Hughes told the Tribune.
According to Hughes, the coroner told him his younger sister “had been shot and left out in the woods behind St. Vincent’s East.”
Kellie, who grew up in Massachusetts, moved to Alabama around 2003. An older Facebook profile of Kellie’s indicated she worked at a Lowe’s home-improvements store in Fultondale, Alabama. On Nov. 22, Kellie posted an image via another Facebook account that read, in part, “Stop judging people and their struggles…because the struggles someone is going through today can turn and become yours tomorrow.”
A week earlier, Kellie posted a selfie with copy-pasted prose showing her strength.
“This woman is a WARRIOR. She’s not perfect, but she has a lot of WORTH. She’s UNSTOPPABLE. Gracefully broken, but beautifully standing. She is LOVE. She is LIFE. She is TRANSFORMATION. She is GRACE. She is BRAVE... and she will never stop learning or moving forward… She is me,” the post read. “LADIES I challenge you to put this on your status with a picture of yourself.”
Friends commented with compliments about Kellie. One pal wrote, “A beautiful spirit for sure. Always willing to help. Such a kind heart.”
Hughes told the Tribune that Kellie was his best friend. “She was one of those kinds of people that you didn’t meet her and instantly fall in love with her personality,” he said.
“She was goofy, and the crazy haircuts and always the center of attention,” Hughes added. “Everybody loved her. That was a bad thing too because she loved everybody and I guess that included the wrong kind of people.”
Hughes mentioned something similar to AL.com, saying, “Kellie was friends with everybody and some of those friends I did not like, and I told her that. I just kind [of] wish she would have listened to us a little more. I’m a pretty good judge of character and if I don’t like you, it’s for a reason. I guess she just got friendly with the wrong group of people.”
Kellie’s brother and her friends are shocked by the loss. “My whole family is destroyed,” he told AL.com, adding that he spent six years in the military and has an idea of who killed his sister. He’s determined, however, not to seek justice on his own.
“As hard as it is for me not to go after the person who did this, I don’t want to jeopardize the investigation,” he told the Alabama news site.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, Hughes issued a warning: “Kellie Ann was taken from us and the sorry evil bastards who did it are still free. You will be found and I hope you get the max sentence because it will be so much better than what I want to do to you.”
Hughes also asked friends to spare him negative comments. “Please keep in mind that Kellie is my sister.. a daughter to my mother.. and just a beautiful soul all the way around and I beg you that before you start with any negative remarks or ‘tough love’ speeches just keep that shit to yourself because we don't need it right now,” Hughes wrote.
Sarah, one friend of Kellie’s who asked to be identified only by her first name, told The Daily Beast that Kellie was “always just really sweet, bubbly and outgoing.”
“She was definitely a character that you could not forget and you could not help falling in love with her,” Sarah said. “She was the sweetest person on the planet.”
Referring to the alleged killers, Sarah said, “They took a beautiful soul from this earth.”