It was a shocking killing, with an unlikely victim: an Atlanta commercial real estate attorney who lived with his wife and adult son on a bucolic 10-acre spread in Cherokee County.
The alleged perpetrator, arrested Tuesday in Tennessee, is an even bigger surprise. Investigators say Melody Farris, 59, shot and killed her husband, then tried to conceal the crime by burning his body and hiding the remains on their property in the 2000 block of Purcell Lane.
She was extradited late Wednesday from Tennessee to Cherokee County, where she faces charges of malice murder, aggravated assault and concealing a death. She was booked into the Cherokee County jail at 4 a.m. Thursday and is scheduled to have her first court appearance Friday afternoon.
It took weeks for authorities to determine the extensively burned remains were that of 58-year-old Gary Farris, an attorney for the regional law firm Burr and Forman and the founder of its Atlanta office. Even after his identity was confirmed by the GBI, sheriff’s investigators were not ready to identify a suspect in his death.
They said at the time they were “confident that this is not a stranger-on-stranger crime and Mr. Farris knew the suspect(s).”
But an investigation continued in the months that followed, Cherokee County sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Jay Baker said. Just recently, the GBI Crime Lab completed analyzing evidence at the scene and confirmed Farris died of a gunshot wound.
“Detectives recovered evidence indicating Ms. Farris shot and killed her husband inside their home and then tried to dispose of his body and evidence by burning it on their Purcell Lane property,” Baker said.
Baker said the condition of Farris’ body made it especially difficult for the investigators and crime scene technicians who worked the case.
While detectives are not elaborating on a motive, Baker told Channel 2 Action News the couple had marital problems.
The morning of July 5, Farris’ son discovered the remains on their sprawling 10-acre property. Deputies spent the next two days combing for evidence at the family’s home and in a pond, a creek, several pastures and through an extensive amount of wooded area on the property.
“At the time, no one knew whether it was a random act or family thing,” neighbor Ben Kushner told Channel 2.
He said not many people knew Melody Farris, who largely kept to herself and didn’t get out much.
The million-dollar estate was put up for sale in August.
Authorities have not said when Melody Farris made her way out of the state. She was found by authorities Tuesday in Tullahoma, a middle Tennessee town east of Lynchburg.
Friends and neighbors of Gary Farris said the latest developments intensify the shock that followed his death.
“When I first heard the news I couldn’t believe it,” said Tim Inman, who grew up with Farris in Tuscumbia, Ala. “He was just a really, really good guy.”
Inman said Farris declared his intention to become a lawyer at a young age.
“He was a genius,” Inman said. “Chemistry, algebra, you name it, he was good at everything.”
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