published Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Body of Johnny Cash's great niece found stuffed in box in Middle Tennessee

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — The great-niece of the late singer Johnny Cash has been found stabbed to death and stuffed in a box in a house, authorities in Tennessee said Thursday.

Putnam County Sheriff David Andrews said Courtney Cash's body was found Wednesday morning in a home near Cookeville, about 70 miles east of Nashville.

Cash's body was found in a chest just inside the front door, Andrews said. A man identified as William Austin Johnson, Cash's boyfriend, was being treated for stab wounds at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Andrews said.

Andrews said the pair had gone out with a friend before an altercation took place in the house where Johnson and Cash lived with their young child. The friend, identified as Wayne Gary Masciarella, has been charged with first-degree murder.

Johnson escaped the attack and took the child with him before driving to the hospital, Andrews said. The scene inside the house was "somewhat bloody," Andrews told reporters at a news conference.

"There was a struggle," the sheriff said.

The suspect may have been trying to hide Cash's body, Andrews said. A motive was not released, but Andrews indicated the stabbings were likely connected to drugs.

"This is a senseless, tragic death of a young lady whose life was probably taken as a direct or indirect result of drugs," Andrews said.

Johnny Cash's brother, Tommy Cash, released a statement asking for prayers for the family after the loss of his granddaughter.

"We are completely heartbroken," the statement said.

Masciarella is being held without bond. He has a court date scheduled for April 21. Officials in Putnam County said they do not know if he has a lawyer.

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