Henry County bookstore owner kidnapped, killed by employee, warrants say

Community remembers bookstore owner found dead
Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 11:35 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 7, 2023 at 12:44 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LOCUST GROVE, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Henry County officials have shared more details surrounding the death of a well-known and beloved bookstore owner who was killed over the weekend.

Investigators say 38-year-old Romero Johnson is accused of killing 40-year-old Erica Atkins and dumping her body in a creek. Family members tell Atlanta News First that “Romero is Atkin’s former boyfriend.”

According to warrants, between the hours of 11 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. on Mar. 4, cameras spotted Johnson at Atkin’s home located at 4007 Madison Acres Drive in Locust Grove. Authorities say Johnson was at Atkin’s home during the same time frame she was first reported missing.

Investigators say cameras from across the street showed a “large black subject” in a white shirt grab a sheet or plastic lining from the garage to cover Atkin’s body in the driveway.

Later the same day, the Locust Grove Police Department says it was contacted by the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office in reference to a dead body that had been located on Highway 129 that matched the physical description of the kidnapping victim. Detectives traveled to Putnam County and confirmed the identity to be Erica Atkins.

Officials said a search warrant was issued on Johnson’s vehicle and inside blood was located in the rear passenger compartment of his vehicle.

In the driveway of Atkin’s home, officers discovered earrings and human blood which belongs to Atkins.

“Romero Johnson willfully and knowingly did commit the offense of kidnapping Eric Atkins with bodily harm when he dragged a body-sized sheet (Atkins) from her residence (garage) and placed it into the rear of his vehicle” a warrant states.

Detectives quickly identified the suspect as 38-year-old Romero Johnson, of Covington, and obtained an arrest warrant for kidnapping. Johnson was located and taken into custody by Locust Grove Police.

Johnson is now facing an additional charge of murder.

Romero Johnson
Romero Johnson(Henry County Sheriff's Office)

The Henry County Magistrate Court confirmed that Johnson’s first appearance hearing was Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. and no bond was set. His next court appearance will be a preliminary hearing scheduled for March 31 at 9 a.m.

Atkins’ family says she loved children and books, and she had a passion for serving her community. They said her bookstore was one way she was able to live out her passion.

“This bookstore was her passion as far as trying to get the kids back to reading,” Rhonda Cook, Erica’s aunt said.

Atkins was also known for volunteering her time to help others.

“My son spent a lot of time in her bookstore. She spent a lot of time with him reading. He had some speech issues, she was working with him on that,” said Kelli Cramp, Locust Grove resident.

In a Facebook post, the Henry County Chamber of Commerce said Atkins’ Birdsong Books was just named 2022 Microbusiness of the Year by the Chamber in February and talked about the positive impact she had on the community.

We are saddened by the tragic news of Dr. Erica Atkins, owner of Birdsong Books. Her passing is a tremendous loss to the...

Posted by Henry County Chamber of Commerce on Monday, March 6, 2023

The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information should contact Detective Mosely with the Locust Grove Police Department.

There will be a vigil held for Erica Atkins on Saturday, Mar. 11 at 6:00 at Birdsong Books. Her family has started a fundraiser for her memorial. For more information click here.