Michael Smith, 41, is charged with first-degree murder for allegedly fatally shooting Cheyenne Johnson, 35, and hiding her body in a mine well on a secluded farm, say police

By KC Baker
May 04, 2021 12:32 PM
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Cheyenne Johnson
Cheyenne Johnson
| Credit: Facebook

The body of a missing West Virginia woman was found in a deepwater well on a secluded farm, and a 41-year-old man is charged with murder, say police.

Last week, the family of Cheyenne Johnson, 35, of Jackson County, reported her missing, the Kanawha County Sheriff's Office says in a statement.

She was last seen on Thursday near Cottageville in Jackson County, the statement says.

Her family "had not heard from her for a couple days," Jackson County Sheriff Ross Mellinger said at a joint press conference Monday with Kanawha County Chief Deputy Greg Young.

While police searched for Johnson, authorities "received a tip from someone who said they overheard others talking about her murder," the Kanawha County Sheriff's Office says in the statement.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Kanawha County Magistrate Court, a woman contacted the Jackson County Sheriff's Office saying she had information about Johnson, WCHS reports.

The woman met with detectives and told them she'd overheard a man say he brought Johnson to a farm in Derrick's Creek, where they slit her throat and buried her, the complaint says, WCHS reports.

The investigation led detectives to the Sissonville area of Kanawha County. There, authorities spoke to a woman identified in the complaint as Virginia Smith, who lives at a farm on Britton Ridge Road in Charleston, near Sissonville, WCHS reports.

Virginia Smith is the girlfriend of Michael Smith, 41, of Alderson, the complaint says.

Virginia Smith initially said she didn't know Johnson but then took a detective to a mine well on the property, saying Michael Smith had "taken care of her," the complaint alleges.

"It was discovered that Miss Johnson had been a victim of homicide," Kanawha County Chief Deputy Greg Young said at the press conference.

Authorities say they believe Johnson was killed on Thursday.

Michael Smith "admitted to killing her and disposing of her body in a deep water well on the property," Young said.

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When questioned, Michael Smith allegedly told a detective he shot Johnson in the head with a rifle before dragging her body to the well and dumping her in it, the complaint says.

Michael Wayne Smith
Michael Wayne Smith
| Credit: Kanawha Sheriff’s Office

According to the complaint, Michael Smith told authorities that Johnson had stolen Virginia Smith's car on Thursday night and that she was killed during an argument when she brought it back, WCHS reports.

He was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He is being held in the South Central Regional Jail.

Police are still investigating motive and how Johnson and Michael Smith knew each other.

He has not yet entered a plea. It is unclear whether he has retained an attorney who can speak on his behalf.