PINEVILLE, Mo. — A Neosho woman received a suspended sentenced when she pleaded guilty this week to abandoning the corpse of a drug overdose victim two years ago near Rocky Comfort.

Christy L. Garcia, 50, pleaded guilty Wednesday in McDonald County Circuit Court to a felony count of abandonment of a corpse in a plea agreement calling for a suspended sentence. Associate Court Judge John LePage accepted the plea deal and sentenced Garcia to four years with execution of the sentence suspended and the defendant placed on supervised probation for five years.

Garcia failed to notify authorities of the death of Richard Sawyer, of Bentonville, Arkansas, on Aug. 14, 2017. Sawyer was a passenger in a vehicle Garcia was driving when he died.

A family member of the deceased discovered his remains more than a year later on Sept. 11, 2018, at 135 Spicer Lane near Rocky Comfort. An autopsy determined that he died of a cardiac arrhythmia induced by a fatal level of methamphetamine, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed in the case.

An investigation of the death by the McDonald County Sheriff's Department led to the charging of Garcia and Dorena M. Epperson, 50, of Goodman, with abandonment of a corpse.

A member of Sawyer's family told investigators that Sawyer was in the company of two women on the day he disappeared. According to the affidavit, Garcia was interviewed on Sept. 18, 2018, and acknowledged having driven Sawyer to Epperson's home on Aug. 14, 2017, to buy some meth. Garcia and Sawyer subsequently were stopped by law enforcement in Arkansas, and Sawyer swallowed the meth in his possession to avoid detection and arrest, according to the affidavit.

Garcia told investigators that it was about five or six grams of meth that he swallowed. She said they then drove to a third woman's house before returning to Epperson's place in Goodman, where she realized Sawyer had stopped breathing and was dead. Garcia told the investigator that she and Epperson then drove his corpse to the location on Spicer Lane, where they pulled him out of the vehicle and left him without notifying authorities.

The charge on Epperson remains pending in McDonald County Circuit Court with a hearing scheduled July 29. She was charged with trafficking in meth in 2017 following a traffic stop by Newton County investigators looking into the disappearance of Sawyer prior to the discovery of his remains. About 50 grams of meth and $1,700 cash purportedly were discovered in the vehicle occupied by Epperson and another woman.

The trafficking charge was dismissed by the Newton County prosecutor's office in 2018.

Jeff Lehr is a reporter for The Joplin Globe. 

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Jeff Lehr is a reporter for The Joplin Globe.