Update, 8:45 a.m.; June 15, 2016
East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark said the autopsy on the body found Tuesday will be completed around 3 p.m. Wednesday.
The results should determine whether the body is Lyntell Washington, the 40-year-old Baton Rouge school administrator missing since last Thursday.
ROSEDALE — A badly decomposed woman’s body was found Tuesday in an Iberville Parsh sugarcane field near where authorities had been searching for 40-year-old Baton Rouge school administrator missing since Thursday.
But authorities say DNA testing and an autopsy will need to be done to determine if the body is Lyntell Washington, the woman they’ve been seeking.
“I don’t want to be premature and say that it is her. We know it’s a female. That’s all I can say at this time,” Baton Rouge Police spokesman Cpl. L’Jean McKneely told reporters at noon Tuesday approximately a mile from where the body was found.
The search for Washington began Thursday after her 3-year-old daughter was found wandering alone in a parking lot near her mother’s abandoned car in Baton Rouge. Blood was found inside the vehicle.
The next day, Baton Rouge Police arrested Robert Marks, a 39-year-old assistant principal at the Baton Rouge school where Washington worked. Marks was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Jail on counts of aggravated kidnapping and desertion of the child.
He was accused of driving Washington’s child around Wednesday night and leaving the girl before she was discovered alone Thursday morning in a parking lot.
Marks, who is married to another woman, and Washington, who is seven months pregnant, were believed to have been romantically involved, police have said. They both work at Brookstown Magnet Honors Academy, a middle school, although Marks was put on administrative leave after his arrest.
The body was discovered around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday by sugarcane workers spraying pesticide near a ditch neighboring a sprawling sugarcane field off La. 76 in Iberville Parish, police said.
The area is approximately four miles from the swamps and secluded forests near Ramah where the Baton Rouge Police Department led an extensive search for Washington on Friday with the help of law enforcement from East Baton Rouge and Iberville parishes. Law enforcement officers combed through the area on boats, ATVs and a helicopter.
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The body was transported back to East Baton Rouge Parish around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday after it was released from the Iberville Parish Coroner’s Office.
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Tuesday Marks likely would face charges of first- or second-degree murder, as well as feticide, if the evidence ultimately concludes Washington died and he is responsible.
“The investigation into this crime will continue,” Moore said Tuesday.
Friends spoke fondly about Washington this week.
Lana Williams, who taught with Washington at her previous school, Eden Park Superintendent’s Academy, described her as a devoted teacher, whose students were always engaged in the lessons Washington put together.
“She was one of the most generous people I knew. When she was actually teaching, even when she was low on money, she was doing everything she could for her students, buying materials and bringing them in,” Williams said.
Another friend who also met Washington at Eden Park, LaTafta Spivey, said she last spoke to Washington in March. Her friend had called her with big news.
“You’re going to be an aunt!” Washington told her happily.
Spivey was not so happy to hear that her friend was pregnant.
“I knew she was struggling financially as a single mother,” Spivey recalled.
Washington lived in a one-bedroom apartment, needed a new car and didn’t even have a working computer, prompting her to come to visit Spivey on occasion while Washington pursued a master’s degree in education from Southern University.
Spivey was even less happy when she found out about the father, whom Washington described only as “Robert.” Spivey said she asked if the two were going to get married and her friend’s tone of voice changed.
“There’s a lot of things going on,” is all Washington would say, but she was certain that she and Marks would be together.
“My words verbatim: ‘I don’t get a good feeling from this, I just don’t,’ Spivey recalled, prompting Washington to tease her that she worried too much. Spivey worried her friend could be too trusting.
“She wanted a family. She wanted a relationship. She wanted that fairy tale life. She never stopped working for that,” Spivey said.
On Friday, their mutual friend, Erica Courtney, who’d also taught at Eden Park, called Spivey to tell her Washington had gone missing.
Courtney knew that Washington had a boyfriend but didn’t know much about him, or that her friend was pregnant. She said the police’s allegation that Washington’s daughter was in a car alone with Marks raised alarm bells, as she knew her friend and former coworker to be a protective mother.
“That would never happen. That would not happen,” Courtney said. “She never took her eye off that baby.”
Both Courtney and Spivey have been distraught since their friend’s disappearance.
“We’re really devastated about it,” Courtney said. “She’s one of us.”
Spivey said she hasn’t been able to sleep.
“I can’t express to you how beautiful her spirit was,” Spivey said. “I’m very sad.”
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter @tjonesreporter.