Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Lexis and Suellen Roberts: Killed by a Dead Man?

A Body in Arizona

  

The next day, Monday, November 15, 2010, authorities in Arizona found the body of a woman they believed to be Suellen Roberts. The corpse was discovered along a remote section of Interstate 40 in northwestern Arizona in mountainous terrain, near Seligman. Although Sanders was being questioned by investigators in Mississippi, authorities stopped short of saying whether any of his statements had led investigators in Arizona to the female body there. It was reported in The Washington Post, however, that federal investigators had provided Arizona authorities with information regarding where a woman's body might be found.

Suellen Roberts
Suellen Roberts
"There will be an autopsy in the next day or two to verify it was Suellen and possibly give us a time of death," Yavapai County Sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said. "We do believe it is Suellen based on evidence obtained at the scene."

Arizona law enforcement sources said that it could take several days to a couple of weeks for positive identification to be made on the body. Authorities also said that it would likely require the work of forensic anthropologists, as in Lexis's case, to make the identification. DNA testing might also be conducted on the remains.

Meanwhile, authorities in Louisiana indicated that they wanted Sanders extradited from Mississippi so that he could face charges for Lexis's slaying. Sanders made a court appearance on Monday, November 15—the same day Suellen's body was found—in U.S. District Court in Gulfport on the federal kidnapping charge where he waived his rights to hearings in Mississippi, according to Melanie Rube of the U.S. Marshals Service. He did not enter a plea during the court hearing.

Authorities in Louisiana said on Wednesday, November 17, 2010, that they will be charging Sanders with first-degree murder in the death of Lexis Roberts when he is handed over to them by federal officials.

"We are looking to file first-degree murder charges against Sanders in the next few days," Sheriff Kelly said. "That is the only charge we have jurisdiction for."

Thomas Steven Sanders
Thomas Steven Sanders
Kelly said that Sanders could be charged with murder in Arizona if the body found there turned out to be Suellen Roberts.

"They have to keep investigating that," he said. "Until the DNA comes back, we won't know for sure."

In the meantime, Sanders has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he kidnapped Lexis Roberts. According to Stephanie A. Finley, a U.S. Attorney in Louisiana, Sanders could be sentenced to death if convicted of kidnapping the child, which allegedly led to her being killed.

On Friday, November 19, 2010, Sanders pleaded not guilty to the kidnapping charges.

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