A man accused of placing a dead body in a car at a local general store appeared in court Wednesday after he was taken into custody last week, and the county prosecutor anticipates more arrests in the case.
Billy Joe Stone, 50, of the Rocky Fork Lake area, is charged with abuse of a corpse, a fifth-degree felony, and tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony.
Stone’s indictment, handed down by a Highland County grand jury May 7, says he placed the body of 41-year-old John Peacock in a car parked in a general store parking lot on Jan. 18.
The body was found Jan. 19.
The county coroner said Peacock died from a fentanyl overdose combined with a “significant” amount of alcohol.
Stone was arrested on a secret indictment May 9, according to online court documents. Indictments are sometimes sealed until the defendant is taken into custody.
Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins said she anticipates further arrests in the case. She declined to disclose how many secret indictments were issued this month.
Stone appeared in Highland County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday for a pretrial hearing, during which Collins said routine business items were addressed. Stone is represented by local attorney Kathryn Hapner.
As previously reported, Peacock’s body was found partially clothed in the back seat of a car parked at a general store on North Shore Drive in the Rocky Fork Lake area.
Highland County Coroner Dr. Jeff Beery said the condition of Peacock’s body was not consistent with the environment in which it was found.
“We have reason to believe … this was kind of a staged scene,” Beery told The Times-Gazette at the time.
Dr. Jim McKown, one of Beery’s investigators, said while there were no needle punctures on Peacock’s body, the case was ruled at the time as a probable drug overdose.
A syringe was found about 10 feet from the car, but there was nothing to indicate whether or not it was used by Peacock, McKown said previously.
There was no indication of trauma on the body, McKown said.
Beery said it is not unusual for overdose deaths to be reported well after other drug users have cleaned up the scene so as not to incriminate themselves. But, the coroner said, “usually, they’re not so nefarious as to move the body.”
“If they load them up and haul them somewhere else and leave them, that really creates a lot of worry,” he said.
Peacock’s body was discovered on the morning of Jan. 19 by an employee who was coming to work at the business, according to Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570.