The body of Sheena Baxter, 32, mother of three young daughters was recovered Tuesday evening from a storage facility in Richmond, police said.
The storage facility was near the home of Joseph Eugene Hicks, 53, a truck driver and the ex-boyfriend of Baxter. Earlier Tuesday, a press conference was held at the Georgetown Police Department announcing a special grand jury had been convened and returned a six-count indictment against Hicks, including a count for Baxter’s murder.
Baxter’s body was positively identified Wednesday morning by the Frankfort State Medical Examiner’s Office through tattoos, police said. The cause of death had not been determined pending a full autopsy.
“I’m traumatized, I’m not going to lie,” said Baxter’s sister, Christa Crumley moments after the Tuesday morning press conference. “I’m still trying to make out everything. I want him to give answers. I’m not scared. I’m not backing down.”
The body was discovered wrapped in plastic and could not be immediately identified. Forensic experts must work carefully with the plastic to preserve potential evidence such as fingerprints, DNA, hair and other materials.
Hicks was indicted by the grand jury on six counts including murder, first-degree robbery, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, tampering with physical evidence, criminal mischief and falsely reporting an incident. Court reports state Hicks had previously been charged in 1999 with first degree rape, which was amended to sexual assault, first degree and a charge of failure to comply with sex offender registry in 2012, as well as various theft charges.
Baxter disappeared on Valentine’s Day around 7:30 p.m., according to her family. She had stepped outside her sister’s home on Sundown Drive and never returned. Baxter had mentioned her current boyfriend might pick her up, so family members were not concerned until the boyfriend called asking for Baxter.
At 9:03 p.m. Valentine’s Day, Hicks pulled into the Speedway on Darby Drive with a gunshot wound to his wrist. He told police a large black man attempted to rob him in the Walmart parking lot and he was shot during the struggle. Police determined Hick’s story was not true and Walmart and other nearby video cameras showed Hicks never entered the Walmart parking lot.
Hicks was taken to the University of Kentucky Medical Center that night but later that weekend, video cameras captured Hicks returning to his truck at Phoenix Transportation with cleaning supplies. Inside his truck police found that a bullet struck the windshield, visor and the driver’s side seat.
Sgt. Josh Bedson of the Scott County Sheriff’s Office alerted Georgetown police Hicks and Baxter once had a romantic relationship and Baxter had “Joe” tattooed on her back. Baxter’s family had expressed concern Hicks may hurt her, Bedson said according to the warrant.
On Feb. 18, Georgetown police executed a search warrant for Hicks’ 2012 Ford Focus and discovered Baxter’s black LG cell phone. Police had suspected the phone was in Hicks’ car when the Scott County Sheriff’s Office, while searching for Baxter, pinged her phone and it showed its location was at the Georgetown Police Department where Hicks’ car was impounded. During questioning Hicks asked about his blue “man purse, ” multiple times, the warrant states.
On Feb. 21, police charged Hicks with falsely reporting the Walmart incident in order to keep him from running while the investigation continued. He was jailed on a $100,000 cash bond.
In 2018 Baxter twice sought protection orders against Hicks charging that he had physically and verbally abused her, as well as committing sexual assault. The first one was dismissed when Baxter left during court recess and did not return. On Aug. 21, 2018, Baxter filed for another order claiming Hicks tried to get into her car, followed her home and cussed at her.
Crumley was frantic when she realized her sister was missing, leading an effort to post flyers and calling out for help and information on social media outlets. Typically, someone has to be missing 48 hours before law enforcement gets involved, but Crumley worked through that first weekend seeking any help she could get and trying to raise awareness. The Texas Equusearch Ohio Midwest Chapter answered Crumley’s call and brought bloodhounds tracking dogs but nothing was found.
On Feb. 25, a joint press conference was held including the Georgetown Police Department, the Scott County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and he Commonwealth Attorney’s Office announced the charges against Hicks.
Georgetown Police Chief Michael Bosse said there was an “overwhelming amount of evidence” a homicide had been committed.
Commonwealth attorney Sharon Muse said Baxter and Hicks had been in communication with each other leading up to Valentine’s Day. She did not elaborate on the type of communication but did say it was “mutual.”
The grand jury indicted Hicks for murder a body had not been found, which is unusual but not unprecedented.
Hours later, police converged on the Richmond storage facility and Baxter’s body was recovered.
Mike Scogin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.