BOONVILLE, In. (WEHT) – Indiana Conservation Officers and the Warrick County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest of Johnathon Buza, 40, of Evansville in connection with the death of a man found in Warrick County on Saturday.
“Mr. Buza has been charged with murder, felony murder, robbery resulting in serious bodily injury and possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon,” said Cpl. Joe Haywood of the Indiana DNR Law Enforcement Division.
On Monday, Indiana Conservation officers identified the victim as Manuel Edwuardo Heaton, 27, of Evansville. It was also announced that Heaton’s death was being investigated as a homicide.
According to an affidavit, Heaton was found with multiple gunshot wounds and fired handgun cartridge casings in two calibers around his body. Heaton’s vehicle was located in the parking lot, but police say his keys, cell phone and his handgun were not found at the scene after an extensive search.
Detectives said the victim’s father told them that Heaton was friends with and had been fishing recently with Buza. Officers executed a search warrant on April 23 at Buza’s residence where they say they located several firearms, including a Walther 9mm handgun with a loaded magazine.
“It is my understanding that they were friends at one point. They did know each other; there was information that he was there at the time, and they were able to make a case based off of that,” added Cpl. Haywood.
Officers spoke with Buza on April 23, who told them he had met with Heaton on April 21 at the Bluegrass Fish and Wildlife Area. Buza claimed he left Heaton fishing at Bluegrass and went home, and according to an affidavit showed officers pictures on his cell phone that were taken on April 22 and appeared to be of the same area where Heaton’s body was located.
Buza said he had stayed in a Hilton in Nashville, Tennessee for his wife’s 30th birthday. Officers contacted the Hilton in Nashville to confirm whether he stayed at the hotel, and the concierge told officers the reservation was made in Heaton’s name on April 22. Officers spoke with two people who went to Nashville with Buza and his wife, and confirmed that Heaton was not going on the trip with them.
“I would just like to commend the Indiana DNR, and the (Warrick County) Sheriff’s Office, and the other agencies. I think between the different agencies we probably had close to 10-12 detectives assigned to this case. With just good old-fashioned police work and technology, we were able to bring a suspect into custody,” said Warrick County Sheriff Mike Wilder.
Detectives used cell phone records from both men, placing Heaton’s missing phone near Buza’s home in Evansville after the pair went fishing.