GROVETOWN, Ga. (WJBF) – The mother of a Columbia County woman spent the past five years waiting for her daughter’s murderer to be judged by a jury for the crime. She continues to wait for justice.
“We would like everyone to know that a scholarship is being created in her name.”
Those are the words from Donna and Weldon Morrison, the parents of Andrya DeGhelder, just a little more than one month after their daughter’s July 2018 murder. In the wake of the horror a legacy came forth, a bit of hope to help others fulfill their educational dreams.
Donna Morrison said, “We didn’t have the money to send her to school. And she did it all on her own through horrible trials with the illness she had and overcame that. Became a mother, worked and went to school.”
Battling aplastic anemia and working towards a cure Andrya DeGhelder, a Missouri native, received her Master’s Degree from Augusta University’s Clinical Laboratory Sciences in 2017. Always a straight A student, her mother said the woman who loved fishing first aspired to be a marine biologist and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in that field. While at Southeast Missouri State University, she met her close friend Patricia Henke.
“She kept our friendship alive. If I moved she made sure she found me. She grew our friendship,” Henke said.
And DeGhelder’s life grew as well. She married, became a mother and later divorced. After arming herself with that Masters, she purchased a home in Grovetown. Columbia County government maps show DeGhelder bought her home on Great Falls in the Ivy Falls subdivision in October of 2017.
Neighbors told us off camera she hadn’t been there ten months before foul play, something her mother said she never suspected.
Cold Case Project’s Renetta DuBose asked, “Can you tell me what Andrya told either one of you about living on Great Falls in that Grovetown community? Did she ever complain about anything? Was she ever suspicious of anyone or anything?”
Her mother replied, “Absolutely not.”
Henke continued, “Not in the community. I never heard her voice concern about her safety in that community, about the area that she lived in. That was never voiced to me, any concerns in that area.”
“I think she was probably oblivious to any danger that might have been there and nobody would have suspected it,” Morrison said.
Signs went up after the 39-year-old went missing. Friends told NewsChannel 6 the last time she was heard from was on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. That’s when a scheduled dinner with DeGhelder was postponed via text message around 4:30 p.m. She was supposed to show up for work at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in downtown Augusta that night, but never did. Columbia County Sheriff’s Office conducted a welfare check and at that point turned her home into a crime scene, but DeGhelder was not inside her home.
Once the sheriff’s office completed their investigation and opened back up for family to go inside, family friend Kath Wix and her daughter took on that role for the family.
“There were small blood splatters in the bedroom, there was one drop, of dried, tiny, tiny, drop of dried blood on the corner of the couch. And one drop on the edge of the dishwasher because the dishwasher was open about that much so it was on the edge of the door.”
“I think the biggest thing that impacted me about that was the missing piece of carpet on the bedroom floor,” Wix said.
Six days after she went missing, police found the body of Andrya DeGhelder inside of a dumpster behind the Walmart and Dollar Tree at the Gateway Shopping Center in Grovetown. The coroner confirmed she was strangled. Investigators at the time say they found DNA evidence and signs that someone tried to cover up the bloody struggle in the home.
Neighbors helped too. They shared surveillance video with authorities as evidence. But still no arrests or charges have been made for her murder, leaving family and friends to wonder who did this?
Loved ones say DeGhelder dated online and was always safe, sharing her date’s contact information and where she planned on going.
But just before she was killed, she took a trip to Outer Banks, North Carolina and met a man there. Henke said that connection later gave DeGhelder pause.
She said, “She had expressed some concern over her safety and had said if something happens [to me], this might be the guy. And she sent me a picture of the guy.”
Henke shared this information with investigators who told her the man was cleared of that crime. But she still feels they responded too quickly and should have looked at him closer.
Neighbors told Cold Case Project whatever was in the home and on surveillance video led to the arrest of DeGhelder’s neighbor for charges unrelated to her murder. Then 55-year-old Christopher Gibson became a person of interest.
“He was coming out of her backyard gate bringing a bunch of brush that he had trimmed putting it in the trash cans on the side of her house. And I confronted him and said what are you doing in her yard? And he goes, well, I just live over here and I’ve done work for her before and I was just trying to keep the house up since she’s not home.”
Gibson, a decades long criminal, lived directly behind DeGhelder’s home. We learned that it was purchased by Erica N. Craig in December of 2011. An article in the paper listing marriage licenses filed in December 2010 show a Christopher Ashley Gibson and Erica Nicole Craig tied the knot.
The couple was not heard from again by neighbors after Gibson’s arrest and the home went to a bank.
Investigators told NewsChannel 6 they searched that home and walked out with bags full of items, including a gun in the felon’s possession. He was later sentenced to life in prison plus additional time all being served at Riverbend Correctional Facility in Milledgeville, Georgia.
He’s doing time for armed robbery, kidnapping and aggravated assault. It’s all connected to a 2017 robbery and attempted rape of a woman managing the Subway near his home, now an ice cream shop. We learned thorough court documents as recent as March of last year, Gibson tried appealing that case and a shoplifting case at the Grovetown Walmart.
“If they can’t prove that he is, I want to know why. If he’s not the guy or if he is the guy, I want to know,” Morrison said.
“Don’t give a false sense of security when you don’t know,” Henke stressed.
It’s been five years since DeGhelder’s murder and still no one is serving time for the crime. Devastated and angry, the family wants justice and answers for her son who was 7 at the time and now becoming a teenager.
“I would like to hear it from the person’s mouth, of course, of at the very least, the judgement of a jury,” her mother said.
Anyone with any information about Andrya DeGhelder’s murder should contact the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office at (706) 541-2800.
Next time on the Cold Case Project we take you to Warren County where Cheryl Newsome and Troy Bennett were found murdered in their Warrenton home on August 3, 2020. What family and law enforcement need to get justice and close the case.