NASHVILLE (AP) — Police said a man living in a closet at his married girlfriend's house was charged Tuesday with brutally beating and killing her husband after snoring sounds tipped off the victim to the arrangement.
"From time to time, you come across a case with very unique — even bizarre — circumstances," Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron said. "This one probably rates right up there with them."
Rafael DeJesus Rocha-Perez, 35, of Murfreesboro, is charged with criminal homicide in the beating death of Jeffrey A. Freeman, 44, authorities said. Freeman's body was found by police in a bathroom of the home Monday afternoon after his wife, Martha Ann Freeman, 40, asked a neighbor to call authorities.
Police arrested Rocha-Perez a short time later after a witness told officers she saw a man run into a nearby home that was under construction in the upscale neighborhood. Rocha-Perez was in jail Tuesday with bond set at $500,000, and Aaron said he refused to answer any questions from investigators.
A message left at the Freemans' house on Tuesday was not returned.
Detective Brad Corcoran said his investigation discovered that Martha Freeman allowed Rocha-Perez to live in a closet of her four-bedroom home for about a month without her husband's knowledge.
Jeffrey Freeman discovered Rocha-Perez late Sunday night when he came home and heard him snoring. Authorities said Freeman ordered his wife to get Rocha-Perez out of the house while he went for a walk.
Martha Freeman told authorities when her husband returned, Rocha-Perez confronted him with a shotgun and forced him into a bathroom where Jeffrey Freeman was severely beaten. An autopsy was under way Tuesday, but investigators said Freeman had significant head injuries.
Police declined to say whether the husband knew the suspect before the incident.
"At this juncture, I really can't go into the details of any relationship or any knowledge by the two men of each other," Aaron said. "It's our understanding that Rocha-Perez was her, (Martha) Freeman's, boyfriend."
Neighbor Raegene Beverley told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she made the 911 call, describing Martha Freeman as a friend, but declined to talk about the crime.
"What she confided to me at my home about the incident, I've chosen not to talk about it," she said. "If a serial killer was on the loose, I would share as much as I know. But the police department seems to be handling things well, and I trust they will unravel the whole situation."
The Freemans were co-owners of ResiFax Inc., a company that does background checks for apartment rental and job applicants.
"It's a very tragic event ... we're very upset," office manager Tara Cantrell said. "He was a wonderful man to work for."
Authorities said Martha Freeman was not assaulted and there were no signs she was threatened with a gun or held against her will. Aaron said Freeman is cooperating with police and is considered a witness to the slaying.
Detectives continue to work with her to establish what happened during the hours between the killing and the call to police.
"We still have questions that need answers," Aaron said. "We're going to continue to work with Mrs. Freeman to fill in all of the blanks."