The man arrested this week in a Hephzibah's woman death was to pay the victim $25,000 the day she died, according to court documents.
A Richmond County grand jury indicted Michael W. Bryant Jr., 32, on charges of malice murder, burglary and arson in the Nov. 15, 2000, death of Edith Ann Haynes, 57. Mr. Bryant, of Evans, is being held without bond after his arrest Tuesday.
Authorities will not discuss a possible motive, but a family friend of Ms. Haynes said Mr. Bryant was stalling on a $25,000 payment he owed the victim on the purchase of her home.
"He had been trying to buy the home from her for nine months, and he kept putting her off about paying for it," said Edith Chambers, who talked to the victim the night before she was killed. "Before she left, she said she was going to get her money one way or the other. She said she wasn't going to play around with him anymore."
According to affidavits unsealed Wednesday afternoon in Richmond County Superior Court, Mr. Bryant, who worked with Ms. Haynes and served as a pallbearer at her funeral, agreed to buy Ms. Haynes' Smith Drive home by paying off $11,800 in liens and paying Ms. Haynes $25,000.
He also agreed to make repairs to her Windsor Spring Road manufactured home and help her move, according to the affidavits. He did all of that except pay Ms. Haynes the $25,000 he owed her, and the relationship between the two soured to the point they weren't talking in the weeks leading up to Ms. Haynes' death, investigators wrote.
By Nov. 6, 2000, Ms. Haynes said she would sell the property to another buyer unless she was paid, the affidavits read. Mr. Bryant was to take her to cash a $25,000 check that Nov. 15, investigators reported.
Two of Ms. Haynes' neighbors reported seeing Mr. Bryant at her home that afternoon.
Firefighters were called to Ms. Haynes' home at 7:36 p.m. that day. They found her body on the bathroom floor, and an arson investigator reported the fire was arson. An autopsy revealed Ms. Haynes had been strangled.
A month before Ms. Haynes' death, when, her best friend said, Ms. Haynes was not speaking to Mr. Bryant, a warranty deed was filed in Richmond County Superior Court stating that Ms. Haynes transferred ownership of the Smith Drive home to Mr. Bryant.
A month after she died, a cancellation notice was filed showing Ms. Haynes' mortgage on the Smith Drive home had been paid off Nov. 2.
Real estate documents show Mr. Bryant transferred ownership of the Smith Drive property to his wife Jan. 17. The home's fair market value is listed at $38,200.
Mr. Bryant was arrested Tuesday at he arrived at work. He works as a mechanic at an Augusta manufacturing company that makes disposable medical dressings.
District Attorney Danny Craig credited Coroner Leroy Sims with the discovery that Ms. Haynes was a homicide victim. Mr. Sims instituted a policy in 1993 to take bodies to the medical examiner in any case of violent, traumatic or unexpected deaths.
Sgts. Scott Peebles and Wayne Bunton have investigated the case since February, when the autopsy results were received.
Reach Sandy Hodson or Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 724-0851.
Michael W. Bryant Jr. will be arraigned next month in Richmond County Superior Court.