From The Trussville Tribune staff reports
BIRMINGHAM — The person found dead in a wooded area near St. Vincent’s East has been identified and the victim’s family has set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for funeral expenses.
Jefferson County Coroner Bill Yates said Kellie Ann Hughes, 31, was found in the early morning hours of Saturday, Dec. 14.
Brandon Hughes, the victim’s brother, made a public Facebook post asking people to share the GoFundMe link, even if they cannot donate.
“My little sister was taken from us in such a brutal and heartless way and we need to put her to rest,” he said on the fundraising page.
The brother said he has been in contact with investigators concerning persons of interest in the case.
“You will be found and I hope you get the max sentence because it will be so much better than what I want to do to you,” Branden Hughes posted.
On the phone, Branden Hughes, who lives in Gadsden, said he is trying to be strong for his family.
“I just want to help my family take care of all the talking to detectives and everything,” he said.
Hughes said he found out about the death of his sister after he was contacted by Kellie Hughes’ estranged husband.
“He called me and said I needed to sit down,” said Branden Hughes. “They were trying to get in touch with my mother.”
Hughes said he couldn’t wrap his head around what he found out next.
“I kind of instantly went numb,” said Hughes. “The coroner told me she had been shot and left out in the woods behind St. Vincent’s East.”
Branden Hughes said he has ideas about who is responsible. He said the sheriff’s office is reassuring him they are on the trail of the person responsible, but he said he is doing his own investigation to help detectives.
“She was just Kellie. She was unique, she was crazy, she was funny,” he said. “She had so many more friends than I did. She was one of those kinds of people that you didn’t meet her and instantly fall in love with her personality.”
Kellie Hughes moved to the Roebuck area around 2003, according to her brother.
“We weren’t raised together but it was almost scary how we were almost the same person. We were best friends,” he said.
Hughes said what he will miss most about his sister is her smile and her laugh.
“She was goofy, and the crazy haircuts and always the center of attention,” said Branden Hughes. “Everybody loved her. That was a bad thing too because she loved everybody and I guess that included the wrong kind of people.”
He will also miss random texts in the middle of the night and the ability to call her.
The GoFundMe account was set up to raise money for a basic service and cremation. But Hughes said he would love to give his sister a more fitting ceremony.
“This is just one of those unexpected things,” he said. “We would love to give her an actual funeral.”
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office believes the death of Hughes is connected to a kidnapping.
According to Chief Deputy David Agee of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019, at 4:42 p.m., a woman called 911 to report that she was being held against her will at some apartments in Center Point.
Deputies tracked her phone to the apartments located at 30 Shadowood Circle.
“When deputies arrived, they observed a woman falling down the stairs with her hands bound together by zip ties,” Agee said. “The woman had visible injuries and was treated on the scene by paramedics and later transported to the hospital.”
As detectives investigated this crime, it was discovered that the victim had knowledge of a homicide that had occurred and that this is possibly the reason she was kidnapped, according to Agee.
“This information led detectives to search a wooded area off Medical Park Drive East,” Agee said. “After an extensive search, they discovered the body of a white female in a secluded area. The area was secured until daylight when the body could be removed.”
Evidence technicians processed the crime scene and Hughes’ body was transported to the Coroner’s Office for examination. The coroner said Hughes has family in Alabama, but he is not sure where she resided.
“Sheriff’s Detectives have identified the suspects in this offense and we are tracking their location,” Agee said.
Hughes said he hopes the suspects are caught soon.
“No matter what, there will be justice and she was loved by so many people and we will all miss her,” said Hughes.
Birmingham Police, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Center Point Fire and Rescue and Trussville Fire and Rescue responded to the scene.