Unidentified body buried in Columbus backyard found in toolbox under flower bed, police say

Clarence L. Catron Jr. has been charged with concealing the death of another person. (Mike Haskey/Ledger-Enquirer)

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Clarence L. Catron Jr. has been charged with concealing the death of another person. (Mike Haskey/Ledger-Enquirer)

This story was originally published by the Ledger-Enquirer.

Buried underneath a raised wooden flower bed in the backyard of Clarence Catron Jr. and his missing wife Julie was a black weatherproof toolbox.

The box was about 5 feet beneath the dirt and Columbus police Cpl. Sherman Hayes testified in court Friday morning that it was not filled with hammers or screwdrivers but instead a decomposing body.

Clarence was arrested last Wednesday evening and faces a single charge of concealing the death of another.

The investigation is ongoing, and an autopsy from the State Medical Examiner Office is expected.

When the body was found, the Muscogee County Coroner’s Office said the dead person was a woman and likely to be Julie Catron. Hayes, however, wasn’t as confident when he spoke before Judge Julius Hunter. The body was too decomposed for the homicide investigator to determine if it was a man or woman, but he said the person was likely white.

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Officers were working on the Julie Catron case for months before investigators found the backyard burial. A missing person report was issued in mid-June for the 64-year-old woman, but police have visited the Carriage Drive home on multiple occasions dating back to April 2022, Hayes said.

Hayes and other investigators haven’t been able to find Julie.

Police have tracked her finances to see if Julie’s retirement or life savings have been spent, but there hasn’t been a single transaction. No bills or credit cards either.

Clarence told multiple people—police officers and his own son—that Julie went to Canada to visit family or went to Florida for medical treatment. She was last seen in November 2021. Clarence’s son moved home that month and found that Julie was no longer there. Roughly a month or two later, neighbors noticed a new wooden privacy fence, Hayes said.

Cadaver dogs visited the Catron home Wednesday. They alerted near the officers to two flower beds in the backyard and on two shovels in a nearby brick shed. This brought Hayes to the scene.

Inside the new wood enclosure was the second flower bed. Around the bed were angel figurines and what Hayes described as candlelight objects. About 18 inches under this bed, investigators found a plastic lid. Roughly 3 1/2 feet deeper was the toolbox filled with human remains, Hayes said.

When asked by a public defender if there was any known “bad blood” between the couple, Hayes said no. Julie and Clarence were married about 13 years ago and had no children of their own.

Hunter issued no bond and sent the case to Muscogee County Superior Court. Clarence Catron Jr. pleaded not guilty.

Catron family members declined to speak with reporters after the court hearing and asked only for prayers.


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Credit: Ledger-Enquirer

Credit: Ledger-Enquirer

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