SANDERSVILLE, Ga. — There appear to be more questions than answers in the disappearance and what authorities believe is the death of a beloved missing schoolteacher.
A woman’s body was discovered along Pleasant Grove Road on Friday. Washington County Sheriff Joel Cochran announced at a press conference Friday night that the body is believed to be that of Tina Prince.
The first grade teacher at Ridge Road Primary School in Sandersville was the focus of a week-long missing person’s search by local and state law enforcement authorities.
“We have gathered here today (Friday night) because I want to provide an update on the Tina Prince investigation," Cochran told reporters gathered outside the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Sandersville. “I will not be able to go into any details regarding the investigation due to it being an active and ongoing investigation. But I am prepared to let you know on this date, we have located what we believe to be the body of Tina Prince, based on a preliminary investigation.”
It was not the ending authorities, family or friends in the close-knit community of Sandersville had hoped for. They were hoping for a brighter outcome and many of them expressed such during a prayer vigil at the First Church of the Nazarene in Sandersville on Thursday night.
Cochran said crime scene specialists with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Region 12 Office in Eastman, along with investigators from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office worked several hours processing the scene around where the body was discovered — a remote rural area of Washington County, off Deepstep and Linton roads.
The body has been sent to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Laboratory for an autopsy.
Cochran also told reporters that a man believed by authorities to have been the last person to see Prince alive has been arrested on multiple felony criminal charges related to the investigation.
The sheriff identified the man as 31-year-old Aaron Matthew Adams of Sandersville.
Adams, who is incarcerated in the Washington County Jail, was charged with concealing the death of another, as well as two counts of giving false statements to law enforcement authorities.
“Adams is the male acquaintance previously mentioned earlier on in this investigation,” Cochran said.
Adams, who works with a welding company in Sandersville, was seeing Prince for a period and the two went to Adams’ two-story house outside Sandersville last Friday night.
Earlier last Friday night, Prince had dinner with one of her daughters at Puebla's Mexican Restaurant in downtown Sandersville.
Near the end of dinner, Tina Prince received several telephone calls and she went outside to apparently call that person, authorities said.
She never went back into the restaurant.
Another daughter of the longtime schoolteacher later called authorities to report her mother as officially missing when she could not reach her by phone.
Cochran told The Union-Recorder earlier this week that Adams claimed he awakened last Saturday and discovered Prince was nowhere to be found.
Authorities found her 2018 Kia Forte abandoned in the parking lot of the Walmart store in Sandersville. They also learned via video surveillance cameras that Prince purchased a couple of items at a convenience store shortly before she parked her car at Walmart.
She later ended up at the residence of Adams, authorities said.
Law enforcement authorities are now attempting to put together what happened afterward and what led to her body being discovered on the dirt road where it was found Friday.
“This has been a very long and tiresome week for the Prince family and the entire Washington County community,” Cochran said at the brief press conference. “Please continue to pray for the family of Tina Prince and her Washington County school family.”
The sheriff also expressed his appreciation for the many law enforcement agencies that have assisted the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in the missing person’s case over the past six days.
“Without their assistance, we would not be where we are today with this investigation,” Cochran said. “I would like to thank my own deputies and investigators for their assistance. Other agencies assisting that I would like to thank include the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division, Georgia State Patrol, Georgia Department of Community Supervision, Ocmulgee Drug Task Force, Middle Georgia District Attorney’s Office, Sandersville Police Department, volunteer firefighters, and the Washington County Emergency Management Agency (EMA).”
Authorities are still seeking information from the public about this case.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Washington County Sheriff’s Office at 478-552-0911 or the Region 12 GBI Office in Eastman at 478-374-6988.