Skip to main content

‘A pillar of the community’: Beloved Georgia bookstore owner allegedly killed, dumped in creek by employee

Romero Johnson (Henry County Sheriff's Office)

Romero Johnson (Henry County Sheriff’s Office)

The much-adored owner of an Atlanta-area bookstore was found dead in a creek this week, with law enforcement authorities saying that one of her ex-boyfriend, an employee, kidnapped and killed her.

Romero Johnson, 38, faces charges of kidnapping and murder in the death of 42-year-old Erica Atkins, authorities confirmed to Law&Crime.

According to a copy of the incident report obtained by Law&Crime, officers with the Locust Grove Police Department responded to Atkins’ residence at 2:50 a.m. on March 5 for a report of a missing person.

Once there, investigators determined there were “suspicious circumstances” surrounding the disappearance of the individual, identified as Atkins.

Detectives determined Johnson was a person of interest.

After several hours, investigators found Johnson and booked him into the Henry County Jail. Because Atkins had not been found, authorities initially charged Johnson with kidnapping.

Deputies recovered Atkins’ body from a creek at about 1:30 p.m., on the line dividing Putnam County and Jones County.

An affidavit from investigators states that between 11:30 p.m. on March 4 and 12:30 a.m. on March 5, Johnson “willfully and knowingly” kidnapped Atkins when he “dragged a body-sized sheet” that he used to cover Atkins’ body from her garage. He then placed it into the rear of his vehicle. Detectives said they obtained surveillance footage from a home across the street showing Johnson moving the body into the vehicle.

Investigators found human blood in the rear passenger compartment of Johnson’s vehicle. The vehicle had been recently cleaned and vacuumed, police said.

Police also discovered blood and an earring that belonged to Atkins at the same location on the driveway where Johnson allegedly dragged her body.

In an interview with detectives, Johnson allegedly said he was at Atkins’ home the previous evening but said she was fine before he left and then went straight home and fell asleep. However, surveillance camera footage showed him driving as late as 3:21 a.m., the affidavit states.

“When confronted about the inconsistencies, Johnson shut down and requested a lawyer,” police said.

One of Atkins’ friends told Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA-TV that she was a “pillar of the community.”

“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,” friend Shanna Amoah told the station. “Erica was just a pillar in our community. She just won National Small Business of the Year through the Chamber of Commerce.”

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.