Twin brothers who recently moved to Winder were arrested Monday and are being held in two area jails on pending charges of concealing a death after police unearthed a body encased in concrete from the side yard of a house their father is renting on Sixth Avenue just west of downtown.
Christopher Cormier is being held at the Barrow County Detention Center and William Cormier at the Jackson County Jail. Additional charges are pending the outcome of an autopsy that is to begin after noon today, Oct. 9, at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab.
Police were unable to immediately identify the body due to its solid encasement, but the victim is believed to be a 30-year-old Florida man who was last seen in Pensacola with the brothers on Sept. 13. Two investigators from the Pensacola Police Department have arrived in Winder to "aggressively" assist with the identification of the body, according to Jesse Maddox, assistant agent in charge of the Athens office of the GBI.
Maddox said without a positive identification of the dead man, it would be premature to release the missing Florida man's identity.
"There has not been any positive identification made yet, so no next of kin has been notified," Maddox said. "The last thing we need to do is to jump that gun."
The 31-year-old Cormier brothers reportedly told their Florida neighbors that they were moving to Georgia and a third man was coming with them. But when they arrived here in a rented truck, they told their father that they had helped the man move elsewhere. They said they did have the man's dead dog and asked if they could bury it in their father's yard.
“So under the pretense they were burying the dog, the father let them bury it on the side yard,” said Winder police chief Dennis Dorsey.
That is what the father told Pensacola investigators who had been searching for the missing man for nearly four weeks.
On Monday morning the Winder Police Department received a call for assistance in the investigation.When Winder officers went to the home, the father told them a different story, Dorsey said, declining to provide further details of how the stories differed.
So Winder investigators decided to obtain a search warrant, and a police car remained parked nearby to watch the house. The brothers then arrived at the scene but left quickly in a car after spotting the parked police unit.
“Lt. Frank Far pulled them over,” Dorsey said. “It was not a case where they were charged with fleeing. Those are short roads and there are a lot of turns, and as soon as he cut his blue lights on, they pulled over. They got into downtown Winder traffic, and there was not a lot of places they could go.”
Farr took the Cormiers to the police station, and while they were being questioned, officers conducted the search of the property.
“As they started walking the area they found an area that was fresh,” the chief said. “It looked as if someone had made a form out of boards and poured concrete into that area. It was larger than an area for a dog. So they got some equipment over there and they were able to lift it up.”
Officers turned over the freed concrete slab, which was about 5 feet long, 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep. They saw the bottom of a blue plastic storage container.
“They were able to cut the bottom off the container," Dorsey said. "At that point you could tell it was a human body, but you couldn’t tell much else.”
The body was in a fetal position inside the plastic container without a lid. The concrete had been poured over the open container, Dorsey said.
Winder police requested assistance from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the concrete slab was transported to the GBI’s crime lab on the back of a skid truck.
Still to be determined is not only the cause of the victim's death but also in whose jurisdiction he died, Dorsey said.
“At this point we don’t know where the person died, if he was killed in Florida and transported here,” he said. “A lot of questions have to be answered.”
Dorsey said the brothers' rented truck has been located. The father also has been cooperative with police and does not appear to have been involved in the crime.
“We feel at this point he is telling us the truth,” Dorsey said.