The Investigators: What happened in Room 222? - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators: What happened in Room 222?

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By Lori Brown - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - It's the kind of thing people have nightmares about: A woman's body stuffed beneath a motel bed, there for weeks while unsuspecting guests sleep right on top of it.

It happened right here in Memphis, and nearly a year later, the victim's family is still searching for answers.

Last January, Sony Millbrook checked into Room 222 at the Budget Lodge Inn on Brooks Road.  She was staying with her boyfriend and father of four of her children, LaKeith Moody, and the room was in his name.

Millbrook had been there for a couple of weeks when one day in late January, she did not pick up her kids from daycare.

Her sister, Linda James, reported her missing.

Six weeks later, a housekeeping employee at the Budget Inn discovered Millbrook's decaying body, wrapped in plastic and stuffed under the bed in Room 222.  A motel worker searching for the source of a horrible odor made the discovery.

"I seriously almost passed out," the hotel worker described in June. "The smell that came out; I can't understand how no one would notice that."

Police believe Millbrook's body had been there since the day she disappeared.

"She was strangled to death," James said.

From day one James feels the system failed her sister.

"I think that they just dropped the ball," she said.

Millbrook's family says they asked repeatedly if they could search room 222 for any sign that might lead them to Millbrook.

"I think I would have searched all over," James said. "I think I would have known to look up under the bed."

Between the time Millbrook was reported missing and the day her body was discovered, five people rented the room and slept on the bed that entombed her body.

"I'm just at a shock because I'm like, ok, I done laid on top of this lady's body," said Rhonda Sargent, who stayed in the room after Millbrook disappeared, but before her body was found. "This is somebody's daughter…mom. Why didn't they investigate this fully?"

Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin asked the same question. He ordered an internal investigation to find out why the room wasn't thoroughly searched after Millbrook was reported missing.

"It was already cleaned," Godwin said in March. "It had been rented several times. It was like, 'Well, we don't have any evidence here.' The officers wanted to solve it and went in a different direction."    

Investigators questioned Millbrook's boyfriend, LaKeith Moody, and later arrested him on an unrelated gun charge.  Moody has a history of assault charges, and records show Millbrook filed orders of protection against him at least twice.

James believes her sister was in danger with Moody.

"It's not a mysterious case," she said. "It's not."

James says Moody has not made contact with his four children, now in her custody, since the day she reported her sister missing.  Still, nine months after the gruesome discovery in Moody's motel room, he is considered only a person of interest in this case.

"I'm wondering why it's taking so long for justice," James said.

Moody is a convicted felon, and is now in federal custody on the gun charge.  He has not been charged in Millbrook's murder, and Action News 5's calls to his attorney have not been returned.

Meanwhile, an internal investigation into why Room 222 was not properly searched resulted in charges against two Memphis police officers.  Those charges were later dropped against one officer, while the other was suspended for four days.

The Memphis Police Department says, in general, when a suspect is in custody, it gives investigators more time to work the case before they present it to the Grand Jury.

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