An Atlanta police officer is accused of killing a woman he met through an online hookup website and then set her body on fire.
Tahreem Zeus Rana appeared Friday in court on charges of murder, arson, kidnapping, and tampering with evidence in the slaying of 26-year-old Vernicia Woodard.
Investigators linked the 23-year-old Rana to the homicide through the victim’s phone records, and they found Woodard’s posting on the classified website Backpage.com, where they believe the officer and woman met.
Police arrested Rana about 8:30 a.m. Thursday at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, where authorities believe he was headed to Monterrey, Mexico, and then possibly to India.
Investigators said Rana shot Woodard multiple times Friday after meeting the woman.
Woodard had recently moved to Georgia, where she had some family, from the New York City area.
A city worker found her body burning in Hapeville, Georgia, where Rana grew up and later worked as police officer.
Fellow police officers were shocked by the charges against Rana, who was consistently rated as effective or highly effective in his duties during three years as a police officer.
“I’ve been a police officer in the city of Hapeville for 15 years and actually saw this young man grow up and heard him say, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a police officer,’” said Stephen Cushing, the lead detective on the case.
Rana has been relieved of duty and placed on non-law enforcement status.
Watch this video report posted online by WGCL-TV: