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Missing Step Up Actress' Murder Suspect Bizarrely Claims She Killed Herself After They Had Sex

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Newly released court documents, obtained by PEOPLE, detail the violent death of Tricia McCauley — who vanished in Washington, D.C., while on her way to a Christmas dinner — and her suspected killer’s statements following his arrest.

Adrian Duane Johnson, the 29-year-old who is accused of McCauley’s murder, told police a bizarre story after he was taken into custody, according to the documents: He claimed McCauley, 46, killed herself after the two met on Christmas, had sex and she said he could have all of her money.

An autopsy revealed that McCauley died from ligature strangulation and blunt force trauma. Police have dismissed Johnson’s claims about the circumstances of her death.

“She was suicidal and hung herself in the car,” Johnson told officers shortly after they spotted him standing by McCauley’s white Scion IQ outside a CVS Pharmacy in D.C. at 11:19 p.m. on Monday, as hundreds of her friends and acquaintances scoured the city for the vibrant woman who worked as an herbalist and yoga instructor.

When questioned by police about why he had been spotted driving her car, Johnson said that prior to “killing herself, [McCauley] told [him] that he could have all her belongings, including credit cards, money and her car.”

Tricia McCauley
Metropolitan Police Department

In the hours after her death, Johnson drove around the city, making purchases with McCauley’s credit cards as her body lay in the backseat, he told police. At one point, he even picked up a prostitute.

He told police that the reason he kept McCauley’s body in the car was because he was convinced she “was sleeping and might wake.”

Her bruised body was discovered wedged in the backseat of her vehicle, authorities say. Her legs had been tied together, her stockings and underwear torn and her body showed signs of being sexually assaulted.

PEOPLE has been unable to reach McCauley’s family, but her friends have remembered her as a “beautiful spirit” who was in “good spirits” the day she vanished. She appeared in several D.C. stage productions and worked as Jenna Dewan Tatum’s stand-in in Step Up.

“She loved to laugh and find the light in every situation,” one friend said. “She lived everything fully.”

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Adrian Duane Johnson
Metropolitan Police Department

Immediately after his arrest, questions were raised over why Johnson — who has a lengthy arrest history, including for theft and assault — was allowed to be walking free.

Days before McCauley’s slaying, a local judge ordered him to begin wearing a GPS monitor after being arrested for theft on Dec. 17 at a CVS store. But he was reportedly not wearing the monitor at the time of his arrest.

Johnson’s next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 13. He has reportedly not entered a plea and remains in custody. It was unclear if he has retained an attorney.