A Florida man imprisoned since December 2019 in connection with the murder of a high school teacher has been charged with the second murder of a missing woman, police said.
Authorities say they believe the second killing happened around the same time as the teacher’s death.
Zebulon Perkins was previously indicted for the murder of Vivien James, a 49-year-old Atlantic Coast High School science teacher who was found strangled to death in her home. Police said at the time of his arrest that they found Perkins driving James’ car, according to News4Jax.
On Nov. 18, the second case was presented to a grand jury by the State Attorney’s Office and the Suspect was indicted for first-degree murder in connection to the killing of the missing woman, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
Reports indicate the woman’s name was Leah Kline, 38, who had been missing since Dec. 3, 2019. Duval County court records show Kline was arrested on a drug-related charge that day, and was released on her own recognizance the same day.
She failed to report to the pretrial services unit the next day. Police said her body was found a few weeks later on Christmas, according to News4Jax.
Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office homicide detectives began a separate homicide investigation involving a woman who had been missing since 2019.
A grand jury returned first-degree murder charges for David Nelson Austin, Alexander Pino, Jairus Smith and Perkins.
Investigators said James had been dead for a couple of days when a friend found her body and called the police. The initial report listed the case as a home-invasion robbery.
Officers tracked her stolen Toyota Camry to a Hospitality Inn on 103rd Street, where they reportedly spotted Perkins and his girlfriend dumping things from the car to a trash bin, including a bloody sweatshirt and several items belonging to James in the car and more at his family’s home, police said.
Perkins was initially charged with three counts of tampering with evidence and one of dealing in stolen property after he was found with James’ stolen car and property, according to Jacksonville.com.