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Murder victim's mother explains what she believes happened to her daughter

By Tim Saunders, tsaunders@wdbj7.com
Published On: Aug 06 2013 04:24:45 PM EDT
Updated On: Aug 06 2013 05:26:13 PM EDT

Arnita Cheatham's family believes her husband lured her to a motel so he could kill her.

APPOMATTOX, Va. -

Visitors have been showing up at Mable Johns' house in Appomattox all weekend.

Friends of her daughter, Arnita Cheatham, are sharing condolences and favorite memories.

"We would always laugh and joke," said Millie Curry, who attended church with Cheatham. "She was just a good and sweet person."

"She was very outspoken when she needed to be, but she'd give you the shirt off her back," said Sharon Cantrell, who worked with Cheatham at the Appomattox Dollar General.

Johns appreciates the visits and stories. It takes her mind off what happened to her daughter.

Johns is convinced her daughter was killed by her estranged husband, Sylvester Cheatham. She says the marriage was violent and her daughter wasn't happy.

"She went to the store on one occasion and when she came back he was waiting for her behind the door," Johns explained Tuesday. "He threw her across the floor, with the bag in her hand."

Cheatham stayed with her husband, but finally had enough when he got arrested for causing a hit-and-run accicdent earlier this year. He got out of jail last week and told Cheatham he would give her the divorce she wanted.

Johns believes he had other plans.

"He told my nephew," Johns said. "He said I'm going to kill your Aunt."

Johns said Cheatham told his wife to meet him at the Executive Inn in Madison Heights last Thursday; saying he would sign her divorce papers, but only if she came alone.

"If she brought anybody, he wouldn't sign," Johns said. "She took a chance and went up there without telling anyone."

Johns has her own beliefs about what happened next. The thought makes her sick.

"I haven't eaten in three days," Johns said through tears. "I don't have an appetite. I don't do anything but cry."

Investigators are still looking for Sylvester Cheatham. He is considered a "person of interest," but not an official suspect at this point.

If you know where he is, call the Amherst County Sheriff's Office or 911.