Deal in death of girlfriend, concealing body
by Wes Mayer
The Coweta County man charged in 2012 for his possible involvement in the death of his girlfriend has pleaded guilty in a negotiated plea deal.
Rodolfo Chacon Reyes, 34, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and concealing the death of another before Coweta County Superior Court Judge Emory Palmer on Friday, said Assistant District Attorney Robert Mooradian, who prosecuted the case. Both charges carried a sentence of one to 10 years, and Reyes was sentenced to 20 years with 13 to serve.
Reyes was first arrested by Coweta County authorities Nov. 25, 2012, after he called 911 to report something was wrong with his girlfriend, Tasha Lynn Buchan, 27, Mooradian said. Authorities arrived at 102 East Wood St. in the East Newnan community to find that Buchan was not only dead, but had been decomposing in a bedroom for four to five days — arriving officers could smell the body from outside the residence. At that time, the cause of death was uncertain, but Reyes admitted to having a violent relationship with Buchan, and he was charged with battery.
In December 2012, after a preliminary investigation and autopsy reports, Reyes was charged with two felonies — involuntary manslaughter and concealing the death of another. He was later additionally charged with theft by receiving stolen property for the possession of a stolen laptop found in the residence. In March, Reyes was indicted for the three charges.
In September, however, Reyes was reindicted for malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, concealing death of another and theft by receiving, and his trial date was set for Nov. 8.
During the investigation, authorities learned more about Reyes’ and Buchan’s violent relationship, Mooradian said. The last time Buchan’s mother spoke to her daughter on the telephone, the day before Thanksgiving 2012, she told investigators it sounded like the two were fighting — Buchan is presumed to have died that night.
Buchan was not initially charged with murder because the autopsies of Buchan’s decomposed body could never determine a manner of death, Mooradian said. Authorities believe Reyes may have hit Buchan that night, but whether he had the intent to kill her, or whether she died as a result of an assault could not be determined.
While in jail, Reyes actually admitted to his cell mate that he hit Buchan, Mooradian said. He allegedly said they argued that night, and she locked him in a room and turned the light off. That made him so angry, when he was finally able to get out, he hit her, knocking her unconscious on the bed.
Mooradian said he believes Buchan may have suffocated. Buchan, Mooradian said, was obese and may have suffered from health problems, such as sleep apnea, that gave her breathing problems if she ever slept on her back. When Buchan was allegedly knocked out, she landed on the bed on her back — she may have been unable to breathe while unconscious.
On Friday, after reaching a negotiated plea deal, Reyes pleaded guilty, and in the deal, both the aggravated assault and theft by receiving stolen property charges were dismissed. Mooradian said if the case had gone to trial, they would have probably tried Reyes for malice murder and felony murder, but that was not the case.
Mooradian said even though Reyes may not have intended to kill Buchan, it was pretty clear he knew there was a dead body in the bedroom. Reyes apparently avoided the bedroom and adjoining bathroom, and he even used duct tape around the doors and windows in an attempt to block the smell.