MIAMI _ A former assistant principal at Norland High School in Miami Gardens, Fla., has been arrested and charged with murdering educator Kameela Russell, whose body was discovered floating in a Miami Gardens canal.
Police detectives took Ernest Joseph Roberts, 39, into custody early Friday morning. Police obtained an arrest warrant for a charge of first-degree murder.
Sources say investigators believe they found forensic evidence that Russell died inside the house, and that he disposed of her car, which was later found by police detectives. Phone records also placed Russell at Roberts' Miami Gardens home when she disappeared, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.
Russell, a popular test proctor at the Northwest Miami-Dade high school, was last seen alive May 15 pulling into her aunt's driveway. She abruptly drove off and vanished.
She went missing for more than a week before a teenager found her washed up on the banks of a canal squeezed between Florida's Turnpike and a gated neighborhood called Andover. The canal is across the street from Roberts' house.
The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office ruled that Russell died of blunt-force trauma.
Investigators immediately honed in on Roberts, the ex-assistant principal at Norland, who Russell's family says has known the woman since childhood. Her mother, Linda Russell, initially told the Miami Herald that she did not believe Roberts had anything to do with her disappearance.
"That would surprise me because I've never seen anything that would warrant all of that," Linda Russell said last week.
Roberts, hired by Miami-Dade County Public Schools in 2004, had been an assistant principal at Norland alongside Russell. But in February, he was transferred to Linda Lentin K-8 Center in North Miami. Why he was transferred is unknown.
Days after Russell went missing _ and before her body was found _ Miami Gardens police detectives secured a search warrant to search his home on the 1500 block of Northwest 203rd Street.
(Miami Herald staff writer Colleen Wright contributed to this report.)
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