2 Teens Charged with Murder After 71-Year-Old's Body Is Found in Hand-Dug Grave in Alabama: Police

The teens, whose identities have not yet been released, were also charged with burglary in the first degree

FALL RIVER, MA - MARCH 19: Police tape hangs in front of gravestones at the Hebrew Cemetery in Fall River, MA, where markers were vandalized, on March 19, 2019. Police are trying to figure out who vandalized approximately 25 gravestones at the Jewish cemetery. Fall River police Sergeant J.T. Hoar said the vandalism at the Hebrew Cemetery on McMahon Street was discovered by a groundskeeper who reported it to police Sunday afternoon. Police said approximately 25 gravestones were defaced with anti-Semitic phrases and drawings of swastikas, and others were knocked over. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Photo: File: Barry Chin/The Boston Globe/Getty

Two male juveniles have been arrested and charged for the alleged murder of an elderly Alabama man.

On May 5, the Chilton County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) responded to a wooded area near a cemetery east of Alabama Hwy 145 to investigate a suspicious incident, police said in a Facebook post Tuesday. While investigating, authorities located "what appeared to be a hand-dug grave containing a body," and recovered the "partially decomposed body of an adult white male."

The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences determined that the manner of death was homicide, and the man was later identified as 71-year-old Thomas Lee Creel, of the Jemison area.

Sheriff John Shearon told local WBRC that caretakers of a nearby cemetery found the "freshly dug" grave at the time, adding that it was suspicious, as the cemetery hasn't had a grave dug in over 100 years.

After investigators from the Special Operations Division continued to gather evidence, conduct interviews, and follow multiple leads, their investigation led them two unnamed minors, who were arrested and charged with murder and burglary of the first degree.

"These arrests are the result of hundreds of hours of teamwork and collaboration with other law enforcement agencies," read the news release.

PEOPLE has reached out to the Chilton County Sheriff's Office for additional comment but did not immediately hear back.

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Sheriff Shearon told WBRC that Creel and the teens knew each other, but did not give a motive for the alleged murder.

Creel's family said he reportedly had trouble with the teens coming on his property in the past.

"I guess they got tired of him tell him telling them to leave and not letting them do whatever they wanted to do till they took matters into their own hands. They murdered him and then they partied in his house and took what they wanted," Crystal Freeman, Creel's niece alleged.

"It was unbelievable because who would have thought that somebody in their own home would be targeted like this." Jenny Bell, another niece of Creel's said. "Unfortunately, he was brutally killed by two young kids. He didn't deserve it."

According to his obituary, Creel is survived by other nieces Raven Parmer, Emily Wolf, Virginia Bell, Amelia Creel; nephews Jody Creel, Logan Parmer, and Casey Creel; and a "host of great nieces and nephews."

His ashes were spread in Gulfport and Bay St. Louis area of Mississippi.

The Sheriff's Office was assisted by the Jemison Police Department, the Clanton Police Department, the Chilton County Coroner's Office, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama State Fire Marshal's Office, and Forensic and Scientific Testing Inc. in Thorsby, AL.

This investigation is ongoing, anyone that may have information is asked to contact Sgt. Jennifer Bland at (205) 755-4698. They can also provide information anonymously using the Crime Tip function on the Sheriff's Office website at chiltoncountyso.org or the Chilton County Sheriff's Office App.

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