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Estranged husband accused of murdering young mom found dead in wooded area days after suspicious ‘me time’ text

Michael Perry III, Avriel Hooks

Michael Perry III (Lynchburg Police Department), Avriel Hooks (family photo)

The 21-year-old estranged husband of a missing young mother in Virginia has gone from person of interest to accused murderer after authorities found the victim’s body in a wooded area Tuesday.

Avriel Hooks, a 20-year-old from Lynchburg and a mother to a 5-month-old baby boy, was found dead six days after she was reported missing and seven days after her devastated family members last saw her alive.

At the start of the investigation on Aug. 23, the Lynchburg Police Department said that Hooks’ disappearance was particularly “suspicious” because she had uncharacteristically ceased communicating with her family members.

Cops said that Hooks was “last seen wearing black leggings, a black tank top, and pink nail polish.”

Avriel Hooks

(L) Avriel Hooks (as pictured in Lynchburg Police Department’s missing person poster), (R) in a family photo.

Several days passed, but Michael L. Perry III, also of Lynchburg, was identified as a person of interest in the case by early Tuesday.

According to the Lynchburg Police Department, he was “located in the 1400-block of Garfield Avenue” and “questioned.”

At the same time the person of interest update was shared, Lynchburg authorities revealed that the Amherst County Sheriff’s Office found a body in a wooded area in Amherst off of U.S. 60 — Lexington Turnpike. Later Tuesday, authorities confirmed the worst fears of Avriel’s family and announced Perry’s arrest.

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“Our thoughts are with the family of Avriel Hooks during this difficult time,” police said.

Perry was booked into the Blue Ridge Regional Jail on charges of second-degree murder and unlawful disposal of a dead body.

Hooks’ mother Ashley Pittman told local ABC affiliate WSET that the day the family reported Hooks missing she got a text at 6 a.m. from her daughter’s phone claiming she was at a friend’s house for some “me time.” Pittman suspected Hooks did not send the text, as it did not sound like something she would say.

Hooks’ sister Lydia Page separately told WSET that Avriel would not have left her son unless she was taken from him against her will.

“She would never let that baby out of her sight at all,” Page reportedly said. “She would hold that baby, she held that baby constantly. He had the stuff he needed, that’s all that mattered to her. She could care less about herself.”

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.