Body found behind W.Va. convenience store

March 07, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A woman's dead body was found Friday stuffed inside a brown sleeper sofa behind the H-Mart convenience store on Winchester Avenue.

No identification was found with the body, which was discovered in the Martinsburg Plaza about 1 p.m. A passerby first noticed the body.

Martinsburg Police Department Capt. Ted Anderson said police are reviewing reports of missing women in the area.

Anderson also asked for the public's help to identify the woman. "We're really in the preliminary stage of this," he said.


He would not comment on the condition of the woman's body, whether there were any obvious wounds or what the woman was wearing when her body was found.

The body will be sent to the West Virginia Medical Examiner's Office in Charleston for an autopsy to determine the cause of death and the victim's approximate age, Anderson said.

The body was found in an alley that runs along the back of several stores in the shopping center. The sofa was situated against the back of the H-Mart store between two Dumpsters, police said.

A woman who lives in the nearby Horatio Gates public housing complex along Porter Avenue said it is common to see discarded furniture behind the plaza's furniture rental store.

But this couch was setting several doors down from where the unwanted furniture is usually kept, said the neighbor. "I was just hoping it wouldn't be anybody from here. That's eerie," the woman said.

Neighbors said they began noticing the couch either Tuesday or Wednesday.

The discovery left merchants in the plaza shaken.

Pole lights in the Martinsburg Plaza don't come on at night, said Nikki Jones, assistant manager of the Family Dollar store.

"It's usually women that work between the two stores," said Jones. "It's scary."

The area behind the plaza is busy day and night with people walking through the area, said neighbors.

Residents from Porter and Kentucky avenues frequently cut through the back of the plaza to reach Winchester Avenue or to walk to the Martinsburg Mall, neighbors reported.

Jawyn Mills, who lives nearby on Virginia Avenue, said vagrants hang out behind the plaza and drink.

Anderson, however, said there has not been many problems in the area.

The Martinsburg Housing Authority, which manages Horatio Gates, received a grant to pay for stepped-up police patrols in the area, Anderson said.

Anyone with information about the body or any missing women in the area can contact Martinsburg Police at 1-304-264-2100 or Berkeley County Crime Solvers at 1-304-267-4999.

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