The man suspected in Newton County's sixth homicide of the year was arrested in Alabama about 12 hours after police discovered the body of a Hispanic male killed in his home.
Abel Torres, 28, was arrested by local authorities in Birmingham, Ala. at a bus station as he was traveling to California, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. Torres was charged with the murder of his roommate, a 29-year-old Hispanic male from California.
GBI spokesperson John Bankhead said the victim's two other roommates, also Hispanic males from California, flagged down a Georgia State Patrol Trooper as they were walking along U.S. Interstate 20 around 4:50 a.m. and told the trooper their friend had just been murdered.
The trooper then notified Newton County Sheriff's Office deputies, who went back to the rented house at 170 Trelawney Circle and found the front door open and the 29-year-old dead inside from an apparent homicide. Bankhead declined to comment on how the victim had been killed.
An NCSO investigator suggested checking the taxi manifests and discovered that someone matching Torres' description had taken a taxi to the bus station and purchased a bus ticket to California, according to Bankhead. NCSO and GBI investigators are headed to Birmingham to interview Torres.
"The investigators involved did a great job," said Bankhead. "It's all fallen into place so far."
The murder did not appear to be connected to drugs, he said, and an autopsy of the body would be conducted today or tomorrow.
Authorities were still confirming the victim's identity and tracking down the next-of-kin as of Saturday afternoon.
Clusters of neighbors stood around the grey-clapboard house in the hot afternoon sun, watching as deputies backed the coroner's van into the driveway and loaded a covered body. Several residents said the occupants of the house, who moved in several months ago, were rarely seen and kept a low profile.
"I just can't believe it," said Nashonda Battle, who lives a couple houses down. "They were just real quiet. You wouldn't know anyone lived there if it wasn't for the car outside."
Leanne Morris, who lives across the street from the victim and had been one of the first residents to move into the subdivision, said "I never could have thought that something like this would have happened."
She said a few petty crimes had recently occurred in the neighborhood, but this was unexpected.
"It's just gotten progressively worse," Morris said.
Fran Collier, president of the Trelawney Home Owner's Association, said the home had been vacant for a time before the recent occupants moved into it.
She said residents need to pay attention to their surroundings and not be shy about notifying authorities if something doesn't look quite right.
"People are reluctant to get involved," said Collier. "They need to know they can get involved anonymously without jeopardizing their safety."
She said NCSO deputies would be attending a neighborhood crime watch meeting, which had been set up before this homicide, today at 3 p.m. at the Newton County fire station across from the Salem Campground on Salem Road.