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Columbia woman charged with murder after police find burning, ‘unidentifiable’ remains

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Boone County Sheriff's Office
Emma Adams
bentley court
A Columbia Police Department crime scene investigation van is parked on Bentley Court on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in front of a home where police found human remains the day before.


Prosecutors charged a Columbia woman Wednesday with murder after an investigation that started at the University of Missouri and led to police finding a burning body in a residential area far from campus.

The investigation started when University of Missouri police officers were sent to Hudson Hall at about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday for a welfare check, which led them to the 2400 block of Bentley Court in north Columbia. Officers found the body there and called Columbia police for a homicide investigation, according to a Columbia Police Department social media post.

Police arrested Emma Adams, 20, of Columbia and prosecutors charged her with second-degree murder, armed criminal action, tampering with evidence and abandoning a corpse. No hearings had been set in her case as of Wednesday afternoon.

Police couldn't identify the body because of its condition, police said. CPD thanked "members of the community for coming forward with information on this case" but didn't release any other details pending the filing of charges.

The investigation started after a mother of a University of Missouri student called campus police saying she hadn't heard from her child in a couple of days, prompting the welfare check, according to a probable cause statement.

The student, identified as S.C., had not been in his dorm room in two days, investigators say. He was autistic and high-functioning, according to the statement. Police were led to Bentley Court after tracking down information about an Uber, which S.C. was seen on video entering and which took him to the location, the statement says.

Adams was seemingly asleep in the house but awoke and let investigators in. When they went to the backyard they found human remains smoldering in a fire pit and the smell of burning flesh. Police say Adams killed the victim by stabbing him and then tried to cover up the evidence with a fire.

Adams allegedly told police she stabbed the victim in self-defense. Police located blood on a vehicle at the scene, inside the house and in the backyard, the statement says. A cellphone matching the description of the victim's was found immersed in water in a sink and an officer saw part of a missing mattress burning in the fire pit, according to the documents.

Investigators found a bloody folding pocket knife in the kitchen, the statement says.

The department said investigators think they know who the person is but for now will call the victim John Doe. Next of kin will be informed after the body is identified. A name will be released after that.

An MU spokesman said the call that started the investigation was a welfare check on a male student. Adams is not a student at the school, he said.

ABC 17 News reporters saw a Columbia Police Department crime scene investigation van at the scene Wednesday morning and again Wednesday afternoon.

Adams was in the Boone County Jail on Wednesday on a $1 million cash-only bond.

ABC 17 spoke with a man who lives a few doors down from the scene.

"I'm very concerned," Leland Ellison said. "You know this is a quiet neighborhood here."

Check back for updates to this developing story.

Article Topic Follows: Crime

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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.


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