Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press Chattanooga Police Department Assistant Chief Tim Carroll shares the details of a male body found in Chattanooga last week. The body is that of an elderly Ohio man who disappeared along with his wife more than two weeks ago.
He wore his wrist watch on his right hand because he was left handed.
He had a stab wound to the chest.
He was dumped near a railroad overpass with a creek nearby.
Those were some of the indicators that led Chattanooga Police Department investigators to believe that the body of an 84-year-old Ohio homicide victim was found Saturday off Lightfoot Mill Road.
“Did a preliminary external examination. Didn’t see anything obvious at the time. They did some X-rays. ... There was some type of injury of the chest, but at first looked like a post-mortem type of injury,” said Chattanooga Police Department Investigative Services Assistant Chief Tim Carroll. “They did the autopsy and obviously found a stab wound to the chest which penetrated to the heart, ultimately causing death. It went from a death undetermined to a homicide.”
Richard Russell, of Bellefontaine, Ohio, went missing Feb. 16 along with his wife, Gladis, also 85. Local authorities were able to identify the body found Saturday as Richard Russell through dental records. The body of Gladis Russell has not been found.
Bellefontaine Police Department investigators believe the couple was killed at their rural residence by Samuel K. Littleton II, an acquaintance who has been arrested and charged with killing the daughter of his girlfriend in Ohio.
Littleton, who purchased a house from the Russells, has not been charged in the couple’s disappearance, although he told authorities that he placed the body of Gladis Russell in a “white, glowing cotton field,” according to Bellefontaine police.
Investigators believe Littleton placed the couple in the trunk of their green Mercury Marquis and took off after abandoning his own vehicle near the couple’s home.
There was a brief pursuit by authorities in Valdosta, Ga., after Littleton was seen driving with no headlights. The officer was off by a letter or digit on the license plate of the car, so it did not return a hit from the National Crime Information Center database, Carroll said.
Littleton was arrested a couple of days later in Princeton, W.Va., where he confessed to killing the couple, police said. He told authorities he dumped their bodies in separate places near Interstate 75 somewhere in South Georgia, Carroll said.
“Obviously, [Littleton] he didn’t know where he dumped Mr. Russell or he told intentionally told them the wrong thing,” Carroll said. “Supposedly, the body was dumped near a railroad overpass or trestle and there was a creek. Both of those exist right where he was found.”
On Tuesday, the Tennessee Highway Patrol used a helicopter to search for Gladis Russell’s body. Authorities in counties along I-75 in Tennessee and Georgia were notified about a possible body being dumped nearby.
In the meantime, authorities are asking for the public’s help in finding the remains of Gladis Russell.
“If they notice any unusual activity of buzzards in a certain area, they should call because that’s one of the clues of death,” Carroll said.
Family members of the Russells in Ohio did not return messages left for comment.
Littleton is charged with the stabbing death of his girlfriend’s 26-year-old daughter, Tiffany Brown, whose body was found in the basement of the Bellefontaine home he purchased from the Russells in 2009. He is being held without bond and faces a March 21 court hearing in West Virginia.
Ralph Colbough, 53, of Chattanooga, found Richard Russell’s body lying face down with a black-and-red plaid shirt partially covering his head. Colbough and his partner were searching for scrap metal Saturday when they found Russell’s remains.
Anyone with any information can contact Chattanooga Police at 423-698-2525.
“He was rolled over on his side. ... I thought it was a mannequin myself,” Colbough said. “He was pale white. Thought it was plastic. So I touched him and seen it was for real.
“We saw his head was smashed in like somebody had thrown him out there.”
Authorities said the head wound was sustained to the body after death.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.