GAINESVILLE, Mo. -- On Sept. 7, a small explosion rocked a wooded area west of Gainesville.
Deputies followed smoke to the burned remains of a trailer in a secluded property on County Road 821. A body, charred beyond recognition, was discovered in the ashes.
On Tuesday, the remains were finally matched to Charles Peterson, 56, using dental records.
The Ozark County Sheriff’s Department says Peterson lived in the Gainesville area approximately a year and a half, and was originally from the Mountain Grove area.
Investigators also discovered the fire was purposefully set.
“We believe there was an accelerant and there was probably an explosive device used as well,” said Chief Deputy Darren Reed.
The trail led deputies to Candice Richardson and Marty Overby. Investigators say the former spouses were acquaintances of Peterson from Mountain Grove. The two were charged with murder and arson on Wednesday morning.
Sifting through the rubble, investigators decided robbery, tied to drugs, was the motive of the murder. Authorities say they found evidence within the debris that the victim was operating a meth lab out of his trailer, and Richardson and Overby were after methamphetamine and money.
“This is like no other drug, and it gets out of control in a hurry,” said Reed.
Law enforcement says crimes connected to meth are on the rise in Ozark County, and the murder of Peterson illustrates the seriousness of an epidemic.
“They are trying to find a way to make ends meet. They get depressed. That’s where the abuse comes in. Your stealings and burglaries go up for the people to pay for their narcotics," said Sgt. Lee Bearden.
Richardson was arrested in Springfield, and now is in the Ozark County Jail. Her bond was originally set at $100,000 but a judge revoked the bond altogether Wednesday afternoon. She was also charged with assaulting law enforcement after striking an officer during her arrest.
The search continued Wednesday night for Overby, who is considered armed and dangerous.
The list of official charges for the two include first-degree murder, armed criminal action, first-degree robbery, and first-degree arson.