Former principal, 39, charged with murder after body of missing teacher is found floating in canal
Ernest Joseph Roberts, 39, was taken into custody after being charged with the first-degree murder of the 41-year-old mother-of-two Kameela Russell
An ex-assistant principal from Florida has been arrested and charged with the murder of a popular teacher and test proctor at Miami Norland Senior High School.
The former assistant principal, Ernest Joseph Roberts, 39, was taken into custody on Friday. He was then charged with the first-degree murder of the 41-year-old single mother of two, Kameela Russell.
Russell was last seen in her aunt's driveway, getting in her black Audi in Miami Gardens on May 15. After 10 days, her body was found floating in a canal near Roberts's home.
While the medical examiner concluded that the cause of Russell's homicide was blunt force trauma to the head, police are still unclear about a motive for the killing.
“We know that this arrest has been very difficult on Kameela Russell’s family because they’ve been family for years, they considered him part of their family,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said at a news conference on Friday, NBC6 reported. “Since childhood, they’ve all been together.”
Roberts—who had recently been transferred to Linda Lentin K-8 Center—also happens to be the godfather of Russell’s two daughters and had known her since childhood.
It was only after the police department received anonymous tips “suggesting” Roberts's involvement in Russell's disappearance that they focused on him, revealed a Miami Gardens Police Department search warrant obtained by People magazine.
The warrant reveals that Roberts had reached out to a co-worker at the Linda Lentin K-8 Center on May 20 and “directed [him] to go to a specific file cabinet inside of conference room 908," reports the outlet.
The cabinet contained a set of keys to an Audi and a note that read: “Do you know anyone that can chop up a car? If so or make it ‘disappear’. Take these keys. It's behind the speedway racetrack on 441 by County line. Friends are gone and need it to disappear. If not, leave it + I’ll work it out later. Throw this note away!”
In the same conversation, Roberts allegedly told the co-worker that he “did something crazy."
He reportedly said that he had confronted an intruder at his mother's house, hit him with a baseball hat and killed him.
He also added that he had wrapped the said intruder's body in a tarp and dragged him through the house, leaving behind stains. He had also asked the co-worker if he knew how to get rid of blood stains.
The search warrants also reveal that Roberts allegedly acknowledged “the vehicle referenced in the handwritten note” during a call secretly taped between his co-worker and Roberts.
When police searched his Miami Gardens home on May 20, they found traces of blood in the master bedroom, and “extensive evidence of efforts to clean up the residence," states the warrant.
“The smell of bleach was prevalent throughout the residence. Detectives were also able to locate a mop in the residence which had a strong smell of bleach and came back positive for the presence of blood as indicated by luminol.”
Bloody sandals and an Amazon box with blood splatter were also found at the scene. The blood was later matched to Russell, and five days later, her body was discovered during a police search on May 25—floating in a canal in the Coconut Cay Community, where Roberts incidentally lived.
The warrant also states that police have discovered surveillance camera footage of Russell arriving at Roberts's home on the same day that she disappeared.
She had arrived in her black Audi, which Roberts could be seen entering 54 minutes later and driving it close to his house's front door.
“He is captured on surveillance footage coming in and out of the residence and toward the trunk of the Audi several times,” the warrant states. “At no time is [Russell] ever seen exiting [Roberts’] residence.”
Later in the footage, Roberts can be seen driving in the Audi by himself and returning on foot. His bond hearing is scheduled for Saturday, but it's unclear if he has an attorney.