Autopsy of woman found at Cobb construction site raises more questions

Credit: Family contributed photo

Credit: Family contributed photo

Amanda Sharpe’s cause, manner of death listed as ‘undetermined’

An autopsy of a woman who was found at a Cobb County construction site last year is producing more questions than answers for her family.

Amanda Sharpe was found at the Ajax Construction area in Acworth, about five miles from the Green Roof Inn & Suites in Kennesaw where police said she died in October. An autopsy conducted by the Cobb medical examiner lists the cause and manner of death as undetermined.

The victim’s family now hopes authorities won’t stop investigating.

The body of 40-year-old Sharpe, a mother to a 14-year-old and a resident of Bartow County, was found Oct. 14 wrapped in plastic, a comforter and a mattress pad, the report states. It was later discovered she died two days earlier at the motel before being taken to the construction area, according to investigators. A man was arrested soon after the incident on suspicion that he wrapped Sharpe’s body and moved it to the site.

“There’s something more that they’re not quite telling us,” Sharpe’s niece, Lacie Michelini, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “What if she wasn’t completely dead when he wrapped her?”

The autopsy report states that “methamphetamine use, coronary artery disease and clandestine body disposal” are “contributing factors in her death.” A blood toxicology test revealed “a markedly elevated level of methamphetamine,” which the report states causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure and can cause an irregular heart rhythm, and “moderate-to-severe atherosclerotic coronary artery disease with up to 70% narrowing of the left anterior descending coronary artery.”

Michelini said family members knew Sharpe had been using drugs, but was not sure what exactly she had been taking. The Kennesaw motel where she died was a place she visited several times in the past few months, Michelini said.

Being a stay-at-home mom, Sharpe didn’t get out much, but the family became concerned about her behavior in recent months after she and her husband of 16 years separated. She was going out more and spending extended periods of time at friends’ houses without saying where she’d be.

“We all kind of knew that she was doing something, but that’s why I was actually very glad that it came back and it wasn’t an overdose, because I didn’t want people to look at her differently,” Michelini said.

According to the autopsy report, two men were observed in surveillance footage wheeling a trash container in and out of the motel room where Sharpe is believed to have died. White material similar to the comforter the victim’s body was wrapped in was sticking out from the top of the trash, authorities said.

The manner in which Sharpe’s body was wrapped and dumped breaks Michelini’s heart. She often asks herself: Why go through so many steps to hide and dispose of the body?

“You took the time and held her, and then you wrapped her like a psycho,” Michelini said. “You did something to her for you to have done what you’ve done and the way you’ve done it.”

Police located Sharpe’s personal belongings within the ceiling of the motel room, along with a fluid-filled syringe that tested positive for amphetamines, according to the report.

“One of the men seen in the video footage reports that he and the decedent were using drugs on the evening prior to her death,” the report states. “Given the circumstances surrounding the death, foul play has not been definitively ruled out as a factor in her death.”

Jake Stephen Schell was taken into custody in October and an arrest warrant states he moved the body to the construction site instead of calling authorities after finding Sharpe dead. He faces multiple charges, including concealing the death of another and tampering with evidence. While executing a search warrant in his motel room, investigators found evidence of him selling drugs, including marijuana and methamphetamine, court documents state.

A second suspect, 26-year-old Jahman Chaka Shoa Alston, remains at large and is facing charges of concealing the death of another and tampering with evidence.

Michelini said Schell was someone Sharpe had recently met, but she did not recognize Alston. She thinks that her aunt “got wrapped up with the wrong people” once she began going out more often.

Five months after Sharpe’s death, the family continues to grieve every day. Michelini often finds herself looking through photos of Sharpe on her phone and remembering all the notes her aunt would leave in her school lunchbox when she was growing up.

“I want to believe (authorities are) doing what they need to do,” Michelini said.