A couple discover why the room they rented in a budget motel in Memphis, Tenn., was "stanky and foul." The body of a woman who vanished two days before they checked in was under the bed. The corpse wasn't found until weeks later.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — James and Rhonda Sargent never dreamed they were sleeping on a tomb.
They rented room 222 at the Budget Lodge two days after Sony Millbrook was reported missing Jan. 27.
Her body was found March 15 under the bed where the Sargents slept.
The couple said they told the motel staff the room was “stanky and foul.” They burned incense but said nothing could cover the odor, although someone apparently had tried, because the Sargents noticed there were fabric-softener sheets stuffed in ceiling tiles and nooks. The smell was strongest when someone sat on the bed.
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Detectives from the Memphis Police Department’s Missing Persons Unit visited the motel Jan. 29 but failed to enter room 222, where Millbrook had been staying for weeks with her children and LaKeith Moody, the father of four of her five children.
Millbrook’s family reported her missing when she didn’t pick up her children from school.
Police believe she died the day she vanished, Memphis Deputy Chief Joseph Scott said.
Police were told motel workers had bagged up Millbrook’s personal belongings and cleaned the room. The workers said nothing appeared amiss, and the room was rented out.
“We were the occupants of that room,” Rhonda Sargent said.
“If (police detectives) had asked us to come in, we’d have let them,” she said. “Surely they know what a body smells like. We didn’t. They would have been able to find her so much sooner than when they did.”
Within the week, the Missing Persons Unit handed the case to homicide detectives. They went to the hotel Feb. 4.
Room 222 had been cleaned and rented out at least three times since Millbrook, 29, was last seen. Again, police didn’t go in the room, but they questioned motel employees about whether there was anything unusual in the room.
No, Scott said detectives were told.
“They’re a lie,” Sargent said. “We went down there every day and told them how stanky that room was.”
No one from the Budget Lodge would comment.
Millbrook’s body was underneath the king-size mattress and box spring in a box.
Moody vanished the same day Millbrook did.
On the third day of their stay at Budget Lodge, the Sargents insisted they be moved to another room.
They stayed at another hotel for about a week and then returned to the Budget Lodge on Feb. 7 because it was more affordable.
They moved among three rooms when they returned, they said, spending one more night in room 222. The fabric-softener sheets still were stuffed in ceiling tiles and nooks around the room to mask the odor.
Moody was stopped while driving Millbrook’s car a few weeks after she vanished. He is in detention on federal charges of being a felon in possession of a gun.
The Memphis Police Department is launching an internal investigation to determine if mistakes were made in how the case was handled.