MEIGS COUNTY, Ohio — Murder charges have been filed against an Ohio man who allegedly killed a Kanawha County teenager he met through Craigslist.
Ernest Michael Roach, 36, was being held at the South Central Regional Jail when the additional charges were officially filed Tuesday morning in Meigs County, Ohio.
“It’s a very sad situation, the whole story, for the young lady, for this to happen,” Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood told MetroNews “Talkline” on Tuesday. “We’re glad that we were able to recover her and it would be a lot better circumstance the other way but, at least closure can happen for the family on this situation as it is.”
An autopsy on the body of Ericka Brown, 16, of Cross Lanes, had not been completed as of Tuesday morning, leaving Wood to contend it was still unclear exactly how or when Brown died.
Deputies are focused on the murder investigation.
“We’re very out of the gates on this thing, trying to get things all put together and there’s a lot of speculation that could be said, but we’re just trying to gather the facts right now, as they exist, and put those pieces together,” Wood said.
A federal court filing that was unsealed on Tuesday indicated that Brown had placed personal ads on Craigslist prior to July. Roach has allegedly told investigators he first had sex with Brown that month. According to officials, Brown posted another ad on Aug. 3— offering sex for money—that Roach also answered.
According to federal documents, that ad stated Brown was “seeking men – w4m I’m looking for $$ ill [sic] do anything for it, I am a girl.”
Roach was scheduled to be in U.S. District Court in Charleston on Tuesday afternoon on a federal charge of traveling across state lines to have sex with a minor. A preliminary hearing on that charge could be scheduled for later this week.
“What’s so concerning to me about this, as a father and as a prosecutor, is what I see as an unfortunately common occurrence— young girls hooking up with who they believe to be individuals around their same age online or through outlets like Craigslist,” said Booth Goodwin, U.S. Attorney for West Virginia’s Southern District.
“People need to know this. Parents need to talk to their kids about the very real dangers facing them online. It can be a wonderful and very beneficial place, but they need to be talking about the very real dangers.”
In a videotaped confession, Roach claimed he picked up Brown in Cross Lanes on Aug. 9, took her to Ravenswood and paid her $25 to have sex again. Cell phone records placed the two in Ravenswood on the morning of Aug. 10, the same day Brown was first reported missing.
What happened next to the Nitro High School sophomore remains unclear.
The Ohio sheriffs became involved in the case Aug. 27 at the request of sheriff’s deputies in Kanawha County. At that point, Roach was a person of interest in Brown’s disappearance.
The investigation changed last Saturday, though, when Brown’s body was found along the Ohio River near Portland, Ohio, wrapped in a plastic tarp with a cement block tied to it.
“There’s a lot of suspicious things that we’re trying still to follow up on ourselves,” Wood said.
In addition to the Meigs County Sheriff’s Department, deputies with the Kanawha County sheriff’s and U.S. Marshals are involved in the ongoing investigation into Brown’s murder.