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Missing Alabama woman case shifts to murder investigation. Authorities make arrest

An Alabama woman who has been missing since Sunday is believed to be dead after her car was found burning on a road, according to Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor.

In a press conference Friday, Taylor said that video evidence shows that the vehicle Michelle Whitaker Hough, 54, of Seale, Alabama, had been driving towed away from a body shop in Phenix City.

A picture of Michelle Whitaker Hough who was last seen Sunday afternoon in Russell County.
A picture of Michelle Whitaker Hough who was last seen Sunday afternoon in Russell County.

That vehicle is the same that was later found burned on Carver Road in Seale, Taylor said.

Kenneth Eugene Lawhorne, 58, of Phenix City has been arrested and charged with capital murder kidnapping and capital murder robbery, Taylor said.

“We believe that we have enough evidence, understanding this case is still ongoing, but we do have enough evidence to prove that there was, that Mr. Lawhorne is responsible for the death of Mrs. Hough,” said Taylor.

Taylor asked for the public’s help in locating Hough’s body.

“We believe she is deceased,” said Taylor. “ We believe that Mr. Lawhorne has done something with her body. We’re hoping that we’re able to close this door that’s open for the family.”

Taylor said the nature of the relationship between Lawhorne and Hough is still under investigation but they did know one another.

Taylor said Lawhorne had done work on Hough’s vehicles before and she had contacted Lawhorne about finding a vehicle for her son.

“We know that she arrived at his shop,” Taylor said. “ We saw her arrive at his shop at 1:30 on Sunday afternoon and she never left.”

Lawhorne had visited Hough’s work several times over the last few weeks, according to Lt. J. Barr with the Russell County Sheriff’s Office.

Taylor said a search of Lawhorne’s business, a body shop, was conducted.

Taylor said Lawhorne has a criminal past, but did not elaborate.