From 2004: Killer indicted on new murder charge

NOTE: This article originally published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Nov. 10, 2004.

A Fulton County grand jury returned a murder indictment Tuesday against a convicted killer who police believe left a trail of bodies in four counties in a single year.

Howard Belcher, 26, is already in prison after being convicted of murder in the death of an assistant manager at a Wal-Mart in Paulding County. He is serving a life sentence plus 20 years for tying up Matthew Abney, 45, and strangling him Oct. 10, 2002.

Tuesday's grand jury indictment charges Belcher with murder in the Oct. 5, 2002, death of Atlanta businessman Mark Schaller, 40, who was beaten and strangled in his upscale condo on Dutch Valley Road.

Belcher, who maintains his innocence, also is a suspect in 2002 killings in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties, said Atlanta police homicide detective Vincent Velazquez.

"After he was arrested, the rash of killings stopped," Velazquez said.

Police arrested Belcher Oct. 30, 2002, in College Park as he drove a 1994 Lexus belonging to Artilles McKinney, 35, of Duluth. A day earlier, McKinney's roommate found McKinney dead in the bedroom of their Mulberry Way home, Duluth police Capt. Mark Hunter said.

Belcher met the victims at Bulldogs, an Atlanta bar, Velazquez said. While items were stolen from the victims, police believe theft may not be the only motive in the killings.

"I don't know if he was struggling with something internally," Velazquez said. "He did say he had contracted AIDS."