Missing teacher has been found dead - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Missing teacher has been found dead

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GERMANTOWN, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Christopher Jones was charged with second-degree murder in the death of his estranged wife, Heather Palumbo-Jones, a Germantown kindergarten teacher who had been reported missing April 16.

Her body was found late Tuesday evening in a thickly wood area off Highway 64 and Collierville-Arlington Road in the eastern part of Shelby County.

Jones waived his Miranda rights and was charged with second degree murder. His bond is set at $1 million.

Germantown Deputy Police Chief Rodney Bright announced the charges during a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

Jones appeared before Germantown Municipal Judge Robert Brannon Wednesday evening dressed in street clothes and a button-downed shirt.

Judge Brannon explained the charges of second-degree murder to Jones, who faces a possible sentence between 15-60 years in prison.

During the court appearance Jones did not say a word. He did not enter a plea. He was being represented by public defender.

His court appearance was continued until Wednesday, May 1.

Within hours of FOX13's emotional interview with Jones on Tuesday, he voluntarily met with police and confessed to killing his estranged wife after a verbal argument turned physical on April 15.

He then admitted to disposing of her body and led investigators to the spot, a thickly wooded area along Highway 64. The body was located late Tuesday evening around 9 p.m.

Jones told FOX13 News he was the last to see his estranged wife after he confronted her about an alleged affair she was having, while they were drinking.

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Upon receiving the missing persons report, Germantown Police investigators initiated a comprehensive and thorough investigation as to the circumstances surrounding her disappearance. This effort included the examination of Palumbo-Jones' residence at 7035 Poplar Ave., including the grounds and surrounding area. They also conducted several interviews area searches near the victim's residence as well as other open spaces.

After days of waiting for a break in the case, friends say they're relieved her estranged husband, who they say gave them a creepy feeling,  is behind bars.

"I am thankful to all of the friends, everyone had different roles," said Palumbo-Jones' friends. "We appreciate all the support! We knew he was lying. Heather was the epitome of somebody who changed her life. She had lost 150 pounds on her own and looked forward to her new life! She always wanted peace, any argument she would back off and was very calm."

Friends say he recently stalked her and stole her phone. 

Frayser Achievement Elementary School's communication department sent out a statement Wednesday morning on PalumboJones' tragic death. She was a kindergarten teacher at the school:

"Today, we are grieving from the loss of Heather Jones, one of our teachers--and a great human being who filled our schools with joy.    

"We were notified earlier that we lost Heather.  She was a Kindergarten teacher at Frayser Achievement Elementary School.   Heather was a model teacher, bringing the love and joy of life and learning to her students and fellow teachers daily.  She brought a spirit to the Frayser community that will never be replaced.  Her dedication to her students was evident in everything she did, and her legacy will live with us forever.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Heather's children and family--and the entire Frayser Elementary community--at this difficult time."

Palumbo-Jones was reported missing April 16 after she didn't show up for work.

Germantown Police detectives said Jones voluntarily came into their station and was charged hours later.

Friends say they watched the suspect's interview with FOX13 News but didn't buy his innocence

"Not for one second," said Blair Jones, friend of victim.

"She was worried when she knew she was going to leave," added Melissa Smith, friend if victim. "She was worried about his reaction to it and tried very hard to keep the peace so it wouldn't come to this."

During the intense news conference, Palumbo-Jones' friends were asking investigators about the details of the case. Friends and family had helped with the search since April 16 when she was reported missing. Police credited them with helping and those friends told us how difficult it was.

"It's revolting. You don't know what you're going to find," said Joanna Young. "I mean, you step on a pile of leaves and your foot hits something hard and you think, Oh my God, is that her?' But it's a branch and you just never know with each step. I've never been in this before. I can't even imagine just how do you prepare yourself to find your friend."

"She changed her life and she was moving forward and she was moving forward without him," Jones added. "He did not want that to happen."

Police would not talk about the condition of the body where the killing happened or the cause of death. Her body has been turned over to the Shelby County Medical Examiner's Office, where an autopsy will be performed.

Palumbo-Jones is survived by her 7-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son.

"We will work through this and we will help these babies grow up, and know that they are loved," Smith said. "They will not be able to say, 'Get away,' cause we're going to surround them."

The victim's friends made it clear they will be there to support her two children, who are with a family member.
 
All the friends FOX13 News spoke to say they had issues with Jones. They didn't trust him and they suspected he was behind hr disappearance from the start.

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FOX13 News reporter Matt Gerien contributed to this report.

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