The body of Ariel Starcher, a mother of two from Independence, was found in a ditch in rural Missouri on Feb. 18, 2020

By KC Baker
February 22, 2021 12:44 PM
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Ariel Starcher
| Credit: GoFundMe

A man and a woman have been arrested and charged in connection with the death of a young mom whose body was found in a duffle bag on the side of a rural Missouri road in 2020.

In February 2020, the family of 21-year-old Ariel Starcher of Independence, in the Kansas City area, reported the mother of two missing.

On February 18, 2020, an employee with the Missouri Department of Transportation who was working along a highway in Buchanan County in northwestern Missouri found a duffle bag on the side of the road and called 911, KHSB reports.

Officers made a shocking discovery when they opened the bag and found Starcher's body inside, KSHB reports.

Her family was devastated.

"She was left in a ditch and no one deserves that," her father, Mike Utterback, told KMBC News. "No one at all."

On Saturday, a year after Starcher's body was found, the Buchanan County Sheriff's Office arrested Taylor Stoughton, 22, of Independence, and charged her with second-degree murder and abandonment of a corpse.

Taylor Stoughton
| Credit: Buchanan County Sheriff's Department

That same day, authorities put out an alert asking the public to be on the lookout for Marcus Brooks in connection with the investigation.

On Sunday afternoon, Brooks was arrested in Independence with the help of "citizen tips," the Buchanan Sheriff's Department said on Facebook.

Charges are still pending as police question Brooks.

Stoughton is being held at the Buchanan County Jail without bond.

It is unclear whether Brooks and Stoughton have retained an attorney who can speak on their behalf.

In a probable cause statement obtained by the Kansas City Star, Stoughton allegedly told authorities that on Feb. 5, 2020, she and Brooks were at the Sleep Inn in Kansas City with Starcher when they obstructed her airflow to the "point of unconsciousness."

They allegedly stuffed Starcher's body into a duffle bag, drove it approximately 45 miles north to Buchanan County and dumped it in a desolate area, Stoughton said, according to the probable cause statement.

Starcher died of suffocation, according to court records, the Kansas City Star reports.

It is unclear how Starcher knew Brooks and Stoughton.

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Starcher leaves behind two daughters, who were 6 and 14 months old when she was killed.

A GoFundMe was started for Starcher's family, who are still mourning her loss.

"She was a really, really kind soul," Starcher's sister, Aja, told KMBC News. "She could go into a room and make anybody laugh," Starcher said.

"She was a good mother," Starcher's grandmother, Deborah Starcher, told Fox4. "She loved her children."