On Novemeber 15, 2005, the naked body of 44-year-old Susan Deloris Underwood Christian was found on a rocky hilltop in Rome, Georgia. Her arms had been bound above her head with a blue cloth, and her skull was so badly beaten that it had cracked and detectives could see inside of it. A 20-pound slate rock covered in blood was found lying beside her, which confirmed Christian had died from blunt force trauma to the head.
When dectectives discovered Christian had sometimes earned money as a sex worker, they began investigating her clients to track down any possible leads. After speaking with Christian's friend and co-worker Anita Marbury, former Rome Police Department sergeant Joe Costolnick told Oxygen's "The Price of Duty" they learned about a client named "Sean."
"Anita had known him for 10 years," explained Costolnick. "[She knew] that [he] possibly worked for the Postal Service and drove a red truck and liked bondage. He liked Anita to tell him stories of her being in fear of her life. And that was what allowed him to climax and get off."
Costolnick learned Christian had recently also taken on "Sean" as a client, but Marbury was "adamant that Susan would be never be tied up" or use bondage during sex work. Based on Marbury's testimony and what they saw at the crime scene, investigators believed this "Sean" could be a possible suspect. After looking at Postal Service employees, detectives found one who seemed to line up with Marbury's description: 34-year-old Gary Shane Abernathy.
They quickly obtained a photo of Abernethy, whom Marbury identifed as "Sean." She also confirmed that a photo of Abernethy's red truck belonged to "Sean." When Costolnick and the Rome Police Department brought Abernathy in for questioning, he eventually confessed to killing Christian.
Abernethy told police he had picked up Christian on the night of November 14, and she had directed him to the remote road where her body was later found. Abernethy said that he "mention[ed] the bondage thing," and Christian "kind of freaked out on [him]," saying, "no, not my thing, not going to do it. I'm claustrophobic."
Abernethy then told the interviewing officer he reached behind himself, grabbed the rock, hit Christian on the head and tied her up.
After raping her, Abernethy confessed, "[I] just realized she wasn't breathing, and I freaked out. [...] The rest is a real blur after I left."
To learn more about the case, watch "The Price of Duty" on Oxygen.
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