Janice Widenor, 53, of North Carolina, pled guilty Thursday in Montgomery County Circuit Court to two felonies in connection with burying in concrete the body of a former roommate at an Elliston home. She will serve 10 years in prison, according to Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettit.
In January of 2015, Montgomery County sheriff’s deputies were called to a residence that had been rented by Widenor for three years and was being cleaned following her eviction. The cleaning crew discovered a body shaped slab of concrete, covered with blankets, on the enclosed front porch. As they chipped at the concrete they discovered a layer of duct tape and noticed an odor of decomposition. Investigators determined that the body had been laid on the porch and concrete mix had been poured on top of it.
The landlord said that Widenor had lived there with a man named Jimmy. The medical examiner’s office identified the remains to be James Howard Austin. Because of the body’s state of decomposition, examiners could not determine a cause, manner or length of death.
There were no clear lethal injuries, and toxicology tests were negative. No medical records of him being treated for any disease were found, but examiners could not exclude natural disease as a possible cause of death – but they were also unable to eliminate suffocation as a possible cause of death.
Shortly after the discovery of the body, Widenor was located in North Carolina. When interviewed she told investigators she had lived with Austin for several years in Elliston. She first said he had moved out in July of 2013. She eventually said that Austin had been sick but would not let her take him to a hospital. She said he told her that he was “wanted” and that she could get in trouble if anyone found out he had been staying with her. Widenor said she came home from work one day and he was dead. Not knowing what to do, she wrapped his body in a tarp, laid the remains on the porch and covered the body with concrete. She said she did not kill him.
After her arrest, Widenor was interviewed a second time. In that interview she continued to deny killing Austin. However she did say he had asked her to take his pain away. She said she took a pillow across his face, and he was not breathing after that. Widenor’s written statement indicates Austin put the pillow on his own face but then she clarifies and says she fell on top of the pillow and struggled to get up and then realized he was no longer breathing. She ended her statement by saying that the only way to help him was to end his suffering.
In September of 2015, Widenor was determined not to be competent to stand trial and was ordered into treatment to restore her competency. She remained incarcerated at Central State receiving treatment until she was determined to be competent to understand the court proceedings and to assist her attorney in her defense. Earlier this month she was found by Central State Hospital in Petersburg to be competent, and the trial was able to proceed.
Thursday, Widenor pled guilty to abuse or neglect of an incapacitated adult resulting in death, a Class 3 felony, and concealment of a dead body, a Class 6 felony.
– Submitted by the Commonwealth’s Attorney office