Putnam murder victim identified as Johnny Cash's great-niece - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Putnam County murder victim identified as Johnny Cash's great-niece

Officials said the victim is Courtney Cash, great-niece of Johnny Cash. Officials said the victim is Courtney Cash, great-niece of Johnny Cash.
Wayne Masciarella (Photo from Putnam Co. Sheriff's Office) Wayne Masciarella (Photo from Putnam Co. Sheriff's Office)
Putnam County Sheriff David Andrews Putnam County Sheriff David Andrews

The victim found murdered in a Putnam County home has been identified as the great-niece of legendary performer Johnny Cash.

Courtney Cash was found stabbed to death and stuffed inside a large wooden box in her home on Rice Road on Wednesday morning. Courtney Cash is the granddaughter of Tommy Cash, Johnny Cash's brother.

The man who lived with her, identified as William Austin Johnson, was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center with multiple stab wounds. He remains in stable condition.

Johnson is the father of Courtney Cash's young daughter, said Putnam County Sheriff David Andrews, and was able to take the 20-month-old girl from the home and drive himself to a hospital in White County. Information Johnson provided at the hospital led authorities to a suspect in the case.

"That's a pretty strong man. He grabbed the baby and exited the house and got in the car and drove himself to the hospital," Andrews said.

Tommy Cash issued a statement Thursday afternoon:

"We ask for your prayers for the Cash family at this time. Courtney and her boyfriend are beloved members of my family and like you we have a lot of questions and emotions that we are beginning to sort through today. We ask for you to respect our privacy and appreciate all the support that the public and media has always offered my family, as we handle the loss of my grand-daughter, pray for the father of my great-grand child and journey through the search for justice on this violent act. We are completely heartbroken. It is a time like this that we are grateful for our faith and trusting the loving guidance of God."

Wayne Gary Masciarella, 27, was taken into custody in Cookeville and charged with first-degree murder.

Detectives say they think the two victims invited Masciarella, a friend of theirs, over to the home late Tuesday night, where an altercation ensued and the stabbing took place.

The sheriff said a 911 call was placed about 10:40 a.m. Wednesday to dispatchers in White County. The ping location from the cell phone used in the 911 call took authorities about 1/4 mile down the road to the wrong address.

Deputies began to leave the area when a second 911 call was placed about 20 minutes after the first call. That second call led the officers to the home on Rice Road, where they found Courtney Cash's body just inside the front door.

"My personal theory is that he was going to hide it for as long as he could," Andrews said.

Sheriff Andrews said he can't comment on the murder weapon or a possible motive in the case, but he said it could be drug-related.

"This was a senseless, tragic death of a young lady whose life was probably taken as a direct or indirect result of drugs, and that's just the world we live in. It's just unfortunate that our people in our society lean so heavily on drugs to get through life," Andrews said.

Masciarella is being held without bond, and he is due to appear in court on April 21.

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