ROWAN COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - A Rowan County teenager who was found killed, dismembered and buried in May died from blunt force injuries to the head, according to the official autopsy released Monday.
Three people have been charged in the killing of 19-year-old Michael Elijah Earley, who was originally reported missing on May 5. Officials began the investigation after Earley was reported missing by his girlfriend. Earley was last seen around 10 p.m. on May 5 at his home on Sides Road, near Haynes Drive and north of Rockwell Park.
Days later, investigators said Earley had been killed and dismembered. His remains were found buried in a secluded area, officials say.
“Nobody wants to bury their child, much less a 19-yr-old man, still had a lot of life," said Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten.
Carlos Rosas Jr, 19, Madison Drew Harrington, 18, and Lauren Grimes, 19, were all charged in the case.
Rosas was charged with murder and felony concealment of death and Harrington was charged with accessory after the fact.
Grimes was arrested and charged with accessory after the fact of murder on Thursday, just hours after Harrington was taken into custody.
“This is just terrible for both sides," Sheriff Auten said, "two families ruined forever.”
WBTV was there as Grimes was walked into the jail to be booked. Officials said another arrest could be made in the case.
“I’d say definitely one more, maybe two more,” officials said.
The arrest warrants state, in part, that Rosas “did attempt to conceal evidence of the death of Michael Earley by knowingly and willfully dismembering and destroying human remains.”
Officials said Thursday that Earley’s body was transported to a secluded location, partially dismembered and disposed of.
The motivation behind the killing is believed to be marijuana, a “very small drug transaction that just went crazy, haywire - completely out of hand,” officials said in a Thursday press conference.
“A little bit of pot will get you killed,” a family member of Earley said.
Officials said in May that the homicide investigation was still very active, with Rowan County Sheriff’s Office investigators still collecting evidence and following leads.
Officials said Earley’s family is “going to be without their child forever.”
Anyone with further information about the case should immediately call 704-216-8711 or 911.