A gruesome discovery by firefighters in southern Burke County led to two arrests Saturday in the county's first homicide in more than a year.
A Waynesboro Police Department officer caught a man trespassing at a city residence Saturday morning. After questioning, Willie Allen, 17, was charged with murder in the death of Theodore Hicks, 29.
Burke County Sheriff Greg Coursey confirmed that the unemployed Waynesboro resident confessed to the killing.
His cousin Ronnie Allen, who is in his 20s, surrendered to authorities at about 7 p.m. and was charged with concealing the death of another, the sheriff said.
Mr. Hicks was found dead early Friday behind a burning home off Munnerlyn-Alexander Road - located in a secluded area of the rural county. Sheriff Coursey said the victim's feet and legs were burned and that he appeared to have been shot.
The cause of death is still unknown, but investigators say they believe Mr. Hicks was killed before midnight Wednesday.
"We're still waiting for results from the autopsy," Sheriff Coursey said.
The body likely was left in the back yard until the suspect returned with his cousin the next night, doused Mr. Hicks' 1981 Oldsmobile with gasoline, lighted a fire, then fled, Sheriff Coursey said. The car was parked close to the house, which caught fire and was destroyed.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is assisting Burke County and Waynesboro officers in the case. Investigators have not yet determined a motive, but Sheriff Coursey said the killer stole Mr. Hicks' money, then his car, before setting it ablaze.
Also unknown is how Mr. Hicks and Willie Allen were acquainted, or who owned the one-story brick house.
The fire was discovered at 1 a.m. Friday after a man returning home from work spotted flames and called the fire department.
Burke County Emergency Management Agency Chief Earl Porterfield said the blaze likely had been burning for some time but went unnoticed among surrounding acres of forest and farmland.
The Allen cousins are being held in the Burke County jail in Waynesboro without bond.
Before last week's killing, there had been no homicides in Burke County since April 18, 1999, when Derrick Smith, 28, was shot to death in the parking lot of the Mystique Lounge outside Waynesboro.
Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225.