Pair allegedly hauls body of elderly man 1,300 miles in suitcase

Virginia Colvin and Michael Stiver.

courtesy Prairie County Sheriff

DES ARC, Ark. -- Police in two states say they are trying to figure out why a couple hauled an elderly man’s body in a suitcase more than 1,000 miles from upstate New York to Arkansas.

Virginia Colvin and Michael Stivers are charged with abuse of a corpse after the two allegedly drove 19 hours in a pickup truck from Johnstown, New York to Des Arc, Arkansas, where police say they dumped the elderly man’s body in a rice field, reports the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Police think the man, who was believed to be around 90, died of natural causes sometime last week. The couple were living with the man in a Johnstown, New York home and acting as his caregivers, according to the paper and CBS affiliate WRGB.

Police say the body found Sunday at a farm 50 miles northeast of Little Rock appears to be that of the man who died in Johnstown. The body has been sent to an Arkansas crime lab to be identified and to pinpoint how he died.

Arkansas State Police say Colvin, 56, was arrested in Arkansas on Wednesday night in connection with the case. State police say she is being held in the Prairie County jail. Stivers was reportedly later charged.

“Why did they decide to take the body from here, instead of calling for an ambulance, to Arkansas is yet to be determined,” Johnstown Police Lt. Dave Gilbo told WRGB.

The Gazette reports the pair has family in Arkansas.

Gilbo suggested the criminal investigation is focused on what happened after the man died and whether the man or the federal government was the victims of fraud. He said that there have been cases in Fulton County, New York of people trying to collect the Social Security checks of the deceased.