Florence County deputies search for slain woman’s body; 3 arrested in case

Florence County sheriff announces arrests of 3 suspects in Easter weekend homicide

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Three people are behind bars in connection to the murder of California woman in Florence.

Florence County Sheriff Billy Barnes announced the arrests during a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Investigators said the case began as a missing person report that led to murder charges.

They said on or about April 21, Cecelia Knox killed Tara Echevarria.

Tara Echevarria (Source: Tearany Cullens)
Tara Echevarria (Source: Tearany Cullens)

Investigators said Echevarria was staying with Cecelia Knox and Jana Knox at their home on McKeithan Road when the murder happened.

WMBF News spoke with the victim’s daughter, Tearany Cullens.

Cullens said her mother was traveling from California to Jacksonville, Florida to see one of her daughter’s off to prom when she decided to make a last minute stop to visit Cecelia and Jana Knox.

According to her daughter, Jana and her mother had been friends for a few years. She decided to visit Jana after learning she was in the hospital.

“My mother, she was a loving, caring, smart person. She was always doing something for her friends, always looking out for people and her looking out for people and caring about people, I believe, is the reason why she’s no longer with us," Cullens said.

Cecelia Knox was arrested April 30 and charged with murder.

Investigators arrested Jana Knox on May 1 and charged her with accessory after the fact of murder and obstruction of justice. They believe she had knowledge of the murder and helped Cecelia Knox dispose of the victim’s body and vehicle.

Authorities also arrested Jimmie Knox, Cecelia Knox’s brother, because they believe he also knew about the murder and helped dispose of the victim’s body. He was taken into custody on May 5 outside of Atlanta and charged with accessory after the fact of murder.

The sheriff said they did find the victim’s car in a parking lot in downtown Florence, but they have yet to find her body.

“Right now it’s extremely difficult because everybody we’re talking to says they don’t remember where they put it, which I think is a joke, but that’s their story and they’re sticking to it right now,” Barnes said.

“I’m still in disbelief and it’s like it’s hard for us to get past this disbelief stage because we don’t have her body," Cullens said.

Cecelia and Jana Knox were denied bond.

Jimmie Knox was given a $250,000 surety bond.

The investigation is ongoing and more charges are possible.

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