Man found driving missing actress’ car with her body inside, police say

A man has been charged with the murder of a missing Washington, D.C., actress and yoga instructor after he was spotted driving her car around the capital city, according to police.

The beaten and strangled body of Tricia Lynn McCauley was found in the hatchback's trunk, the Washington Post reported. Adrian Duane Johnson, 29, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, is accused of killing McCauley and driving her car for an undetermined amount of time with her body inside.

McCauley, 46, disappeared Christmas Day on her way to a holiday party, where she planned to have dinner with other members of D.C.'s theater community. She posted on Facebook that she was on her way, but she never showed up, the Post reported.

She was reported missing the next day after she also missed a flight that would have taken her to visit family. Police, along with McCauley’s friends and family, began a search that ended late Monday night when a resident walking his dog near Dupont Circle spotted McCauley’s car, a white two-door Scion iQ with a bumper sticker that read, “Plant more plants.”

The witness, Jonathan Padget, told the Post that a "critical missing person" alert on McCauley flashed on his cellphone as he walked his dog. He said he saw the car parked on the street and a man sitting inside, smoking and listening to loud music.

"He was bouncing around to the music," Padget told the newspaper. "He was looking directly at me."

The freelance writer, who said he knew McCauley through his own involvement in D.C.’s theater scene, did not realize at the time that her body was inside the car.

Padget told the Post that the man angrily asked him how he was doing before driving away. As the car moved away from him, Padget saw the license plate number and realized it matched the one listed in the alert he had just received. He called 911.

Responding officers found the car a few blocks away, parked outside a CVS store in the 2200 block of M Street Northwest. Inside the pharmacy, which is in the same building as the Ritz-Carlton, police officers found Johnson.

The Post reported that Johnson handed over the keys when asked for them. The officers went to the car and found McCauley's body.

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Johnson was initially charged with theft and simple assault, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. Once McCauley's autopsy was completed, he was charged with first-degree murder.

The theft and simple assault charges stem from an incident earlier Monday at a different CVS, near Union Station, in which Johnson was accused of assaulting a store employee and stealing merchandise, D.C. police said. McCauley’s car was parked outside at the time.

Johnson and McCauley did not appear to know each other, police said. It was not immediately clear how they encountered one another on Christmas Day, or when and where McCauley was killed.

Her disappearance and subsequent death touched a nerve in each of the communities she was a part of, from the local theater community to the subset of D.C. residents into herbalism and urban gardening. McCauley was known for her work in the short films The Paper Girl (2000) and Never Dream: The Beginning (2012), according to her IMDb page.

She also worked as a stand-in for Jenna Dewan Tatum on 2006's Step Up, in which Dewan starred opposite her future husband, Channing Tatum.

Dewan Tatum offered her condolences to McCauley's loved ones early Wednesday morning on Twitter.

"My heart and prayers are with Tricia McCauley's family and friends," Dewan Tatum wrote. "I remember her being a very sweet person on set of Step Up. All my love."

McCauley was also a stage actress and did commercials and voice-over work, Us Weekly reported.

Johnson has a history of mental illness, his stepfather told the Post. The newspaper found mentions of mental problems in the suspect's extensive criminal record, but there were no indications of violent behavior.

His criminal history, which shows arrests in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, is comprised of arrests for theft and other nonviolent crimes, the newspaper reported. He was released from custody less than a week before McCauley was slain, but a judge ordered that he be monitored via a GPS ankle monitor.

The Post reported that Johnson failed to show up Dec. 21 to have the monitor put on his ankle, but no arrest warrant appeared to have been issued at that time.

McCauley disappeared four days later.

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