Ellabell Murder Victim Identified

Police have identified a body they found in the woods as that of a Bryan County High School student, 19-year-old Gerald Mutcherson. A man driving along Porterfield Road found the body, about a mile off Highway 204 in Ellabell yesterday morning. They believe Mutcherson was murdered. The GBI and Bryan County sheriff's deputies worked around the clock on this case, and by late last night they had identified the body and put the man they believe killed him behind bars.

Mutcherson had a bright future. He just went to the prom, two weeks ago he was named Mr. Homecoming, and he was going to graduate from high school in January. No one expected he would turn up dead in the woods along a deserted road.

"When my mamma got home at 5:30, she was like, 'That was your cousin on the news and we couldn't believe it,'" Lakeisha Mutcherson told us. "I said, 'Mamma don't tell me that.' It didn't hit me at first, but after I sat down and thought about it, I knew it was real. I kept rubbing my face and wished it was a bad dream, but nothing ever changed."

Word spread fast around school. The school's principal didn't want to go on camera, but she told us teachers and students were trying to cope with the loss. They describe Gerald as very determined and fun loving. Fellow students and friends looked up to him.

"He was trying to stay in school, 19 years old, young fellow trying to stay in school, do the right thing and on track," said friend Natasha Murry.

The best way to describe what the school is going through is shock. Gerald was in school Monday and Tuesday, then all of a sudden Wednesday he didn't show up. Today the learned he was murdered.

"When I found out it, was like I lost the big brother I never had," said Michelle Preston, another friend.

These girls are leaning on each other for support. The only comfort they have right now is the man police believe killed Gerald is behind bars. Investigators arrested 34-year-old Stacey Lanham late last night.

Investigators have not released how Gerald was killed or why.

The school brought in counselors today to help the students who were upset by Gerald's murder. The students plan to bring flowers and poems to school tomorrow in his memory.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com