Keaton is currently being held on a charge of theft of property in the first degree.
According to information released from Cherokee County Sheriff Jeff Shaver and Centre Police Chief Kirk Blankenship murder suspect Keaton is now in custody.
Keaton was taken into custody Friday morning, Nov. 30, at approximately 10:30 am by members of the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force.
Keaton was located in Cookeville and surrendered to police without incident. Keaton is a suspect in the homicide investigation where the body of Melissa Leann Hudgins was found on the Cherokee Campus of Gadsden State Community College Wednesday morning, Nov. 28.
Sheriff Shaver stated that a team of Investigators from the Sheriff’s Office, Centre Police Department, and the District Attorney’s Office were already in Tennessee assisting with the investigation before Keaton was captured.
Keaton was transported to a detention facility in Tennessee and was expected to be extradited back to Cherokee County.
Sheriff Shaver and Chief Blankenship wants to extend their appreciation to everyone that is involved in this investigation and a special thanks to the members of the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force.
Events unfolded shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, Nov. 28.
Staff and students at Gadsden State Community College-Cherokee were sent home after reports indicated that a body was discovered in a storage room in the arena and that foul play was suspected.
Initial reports indicated that the body discovered was not that of a student at GSCC-Cherokee.
Investigators began a search of the facility in connection to a missing persons report filed Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 27, reports said.
The Centre Police Department, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office and Gadsden State Cherokee campus security continue to work with a forensics team throughout the day Wednesday.
According to Centre Mayor Tony Wilkie and Sheriff Jeff Shaver, Investigators from the Centre Police Department, The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, The Alabama Bureau of Investigation, the District Attorney’s Office and the Alabama Department of Forensic Science were on the scene of the homicide, conducting a joint investigation on the campus.
Mayor Wilkie stated that the body of a female victim, who is not a student at the college, was discovered on campus at approximately 9 a.m. morning.
Chief Blankenship and Sheriff Shaver later stated that the victim was identified as Melissa Leann Hudgins, 32, of Cedar Bluff and they continued to process the crime scene.
Chief Blankenship and Sheriff Shaver then announced that investigators were searching for a person of interest in connection with the death of Hudgins who they identified as Vennie Leroy Keaton, 37.
Keaton was wanted in both Cherokee County and Tennessee on theft charges. Hudgins’ vehicle was found abandoned on the side of the road in Tennessee where it was discovered by the Sequatchie County Sheriff’s Office. The vehicle was transported back to Cherokee County and processed by forensic investigators with the Calhoun-Cleburne County Violent Crimes Task Force.
More details will be released as they become available. Those who have further information on this case are urged to contact the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office at (256) 927-3365 or the Centre Police Department at (256) 927-3661.