Authorities identify woman found dead at Centre campus (midnight Thursday update)
by Laura Johnson
lbjohnson@annistonstar.com
Nov 28, 2012 | 14067 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Investigators search a trash bin at Gadsden State Community College's Centre campus for evidence in the death of a woman whose body was found at the college this morning. (Photo by Laura Johnson/The Anniston Star)
Investigators search a trash bin at Gadsden State Community College's Centre campus for evidence in the death of a woman whose body was found at the college this morning. (Photo by Laura Johnson/The Anniston Star)
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CENTRE — Melissa Leann Hudgins’ family members say they can’t imagine why anyone would have wanted to hurt her, but her lifeless body became the subject of a homicide investigation Wednesday in Centre.

Hudgins, 32, of Cedar Bluff was found dead Wednesday by a security guard inside a mechanical room at the arena of Gadsden State Community College’s Centre campus at about 9 a.m.

The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, Centre police, Cedar Bluff police, a forensics team and the Alabama Bureau of Investigations gathered in the parking lot behind the college arena for most of Wednesday. Authorities worked behind closed doors in the arena but focused part of their investigation on a trash bin that was marked off by police tape in a parking lot behind the arena.

Three men, one in a white jumpsuit with a head covering and gloves, examined the contents of the large bin. The man in the jumpsuit crawled inside and removed several items that were collected in brown paper evidence sacks.

Authorities have declined to release information about Hudgins’ cause of death and are withholding the identity of a suspect, said Centre Mayor Tony Wilkie.

Family members, including cousins, a stepsister-in-law, Hudgins’ stepmother and a stepbrother spoke to a reporter in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot in Cedar Bluff late Wednesday. They said Hudgins worked hard as a housekeeper at the college so she could support her two children, ages 8 and 11. She was unmarried and at one time attended Cedar Bluff High School.

“When they said this morning she was missing, I knew something was wrong because she always went home to those kids,” said Sheila Motes, a cousin.

Hudgins didn’t drink, didn’t smoke and she didn’t use drugs, the family said. They said she was of small stature, hardworking and quiet.

News of the investigation spread quickly through Cedar Bluff by word of mouth.

Cedar Bluff resident Deborah Brewster said late Wednesday that she heard about the investigation at about 11 a.m. while stopping in at the Piggly Wiggly.

“It was scary because stuff like that don’t happen here,” Brewster said.

Gadsden State President Ray Staats said from the Centre campus Wednesday that students and faculty were not in danger as a result of the incident that led to the Hudgins death.

“This is an isolated incident that took place,” Staats said.

He said students and faculty were notified through an electronic messaging system that classes were canceled at the Centre campus Wednesday. Staats said he expects classes to resume as normal today.

Though Staats did not identify Hudgins as a college employee, he said maintenance workers are contract employees and are not technically employed by the college, although they work there.

The incident, he said, would prompt a review of policies and procedures at the college.

“We’re going to go back and look at all of our procedures and make sure we have everything in order,” Staats said.

Star Staff Writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.

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