SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Loved ones say the man found dead in the woods in Northaven Friday had been missing for nearly three months, and they're begging the public to come forward with answers.
The Shelby County Sheriff's Office identified the victim Saturday as Donatello Kelly, 27.
The last time Makia Johnson's 9-year-old daughter heard from her dad was in early November.
“After like two weeks, she kept saying, 'Mama, my dad’s phone keeps going to the voicemail. He’s not answering the phone,'" she said.
Even though Johnson's and Kelly's relationship didn’t work out, she says he was a great dad and never missed an opportunity to spend time with his little girl.
“He’d come get her, they’d spend time together. He was the type of dad that they had to talk to each other every day," she said. "If he didn’t call her, she’d call him.”
But after a month of radio silence, Kelly's family started getting worried.
And after nearly three months went by, Johnson says she had a sinking feeling something terrible had happened to him.
“I was like, ‘No. He ain’t called his daughter? Something’s not right,'" she said. "Or at least his mama. Him and his mama could have just got to fighting like cats and dogs, but he’s gonna call to say, ‘Ma, I love you. Just checking on you.’ And when that didn’t happen, I knew."
Then Friday, Kelly's family finally got the news they’d been dreading when deputies told them they had found his body.
“I just couldn’t believe that they threw his body in a wooded area," Johnson said. "The least they could have done is put him somewhere he could have been found a long time ago.”
Investigators haven’t said how Kelly was killed.
Johnson says detectives told her his body had been in the woods all along.
“He was so decomposed, only thing they could get was the identification from his fingerprints," she said.
Kelly has a checkered past. He was a convicted felon and was in and out of jail since he was a teen. He even faced a murder charge in 2016, but that was later dropped.
Regardless of the mistakes he’s made, though, Johnson says no one deserves what happened to him.
"To kill somebody and not come forward with anything – just throw his body away – it’s horrible," she said.
She hopes someone will find it in their heart to come forward with information so his little girl can get justice.
“Somebody out there knows something," Johnson said. “At least for his daughter. If nobody else, give her some kind of peace and closure.”
Investigators are asking for help tracking down Kelly’s killer.
Call Crime Stoppers at 528-CASH if you know anything.