News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 18, 2013

Husband charged in Archer homicide

Investigation spanned four states after body found in ditch in Ohio

TERRE HAUTE — Terre Haute Police have found local reports of domestic violence between a Terre Haute man and his wife, whose body was discovered wrapped in a tarp and dumped in an Ohio ditch.

Lorenzo Archer Jr., 49, who has been arrested and charged with felony murder and altering the scene of a death in the homicide of Kayla Herchelroath Archer, appeared via video in Vigo Superior Court 5 on Monday morning. Senior Judge Barbara Brugnaux read charges alleging that Archer killed his wife on May 31, and that some time between May 31 and June 5, he altered the scene of her death by removing her body from their home.

The couple lived in the 300 block of Kent Avenue in a rented house.

Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt on Monday congratulated the Terre Haute Police Department for the investigation of Kayla Archer’s death after Ohio authorities contacted THPD upon identifying her body.

U.S. Marshals arrested Lorenzo Archer on Thursday in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on a warrant issued in the homicide investigation.

He is a native of Harrisburg, Pa., and police believe that some time after his wife was killed, he fled to Pennsylvania in a vehicle that contained her body. Kayla Archer’s body was found June 7 wrapped in a tarp, lying in a ditch in Greene County, Ohio. Her remains were identified June 10 when her fingerprints were run through the Automated Fingerprint Information System.

The autopsy conducted June 10 by the Montgomery County (Ohio) Coroner’s office stated Kayla Archer’s cause of death was asphyxiation. The medical examiner determined that she had been dead for about three or four days when her body was found.

“In the last eight days, we have been in four different states for this investigation,” said Assistant Chief Shawn Keen on Monday afternoon. A probable cause affidavit filed in Vigo Superior Court 5 states that the authorities in Greene County, Ohio, contacted THPD after learning Kayla Archer’s identity and that she had most recently resided in Terre Haute. Ohio authorities had also contacted her employer in Marshall, Ill., and were told Lorenzo Archer had called his wife’s employer on June 3 to say that she was on her way to Florida to see her daughter, and that she would not return to work.

THPD Detective Starla Neidigh began investigating the case in Terre Haute by going to the couple’s home on Kent Avenue. She spoke to the landlord’s representative, who said Lorenzo Archer had called to say the couple had moved out of the home, and that they had left everything in the house and wanted all the property donated to a thrift store.

After obtaining a search warrant on June 10, detectives entered the home, which still appeared occupied. Uneaten food was lying on the counter. The washing machine contained a still-wet shirt and bed sheet. The dryer contained a blanket. All furniture was present, along with photos and other personal items.

Police also noticed damage to doors in the home and located a bottle of bleach in the kitchen on the counter and pieces of electrical tape and duct tape with what appeared to be human hair attached.

Police also discovered the couple had separate cell phones, and after obtaining phone records, police could see that Lorenzo Archer’s cell phone had been used in Terre Haute on June 5, and later that night in Ohio near where Kayla Archer’s body was found.

With the assistance of Ohio police, Terre Haute police learned that a 1992 Cadillac resembling a vehicle driven by Lorenzo Archer had been seen in the area where the body was found on June 5. Archer’s vehicle was located on June 14 in Harrisburg, Pa. It was brought back to Terre Haute and examined. In the trunk of the car, police said, they found human hair and a stain that tested positive for human blood.

Police also discovered that Lorenzo Archer left Harrisburg, buying a bus ticket for South Carolina where a high school friend offered him a job.

During Archer’s court appearance, Brugnaux set a trial date of Sept. 10 in the case and an attorney conference date of Aug. 13. She set no bond in the case. Lorenzo Archer requested that a public defender be appointed.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

 

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