Burned body identified as that of missing Newton County man

COVINGTON -- The body found in Atlanta earlier this month inside the trunk of a burning car has been positively identified as that of a 49-year-old Newton County man who had been reported missing by his family, according to the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office.

Gregory Vernon Harris, 49, of 185 Bridges Way, Covington, died as a result of being smothered and his death has been ruled a homicide, a spokesman for the Medical Examiner's Office said.

The burning car was discovered by firefighters in the early morning hours of July 14 in the 800 block of Westmont Road in Atlanta in the back yard of a vacant house.

Subsequently authorities determined the vehicle was an Infiniti registered to Harris and that he had been reported missing by the Newton County Sheriff's Office the day before.

A positive identification was not made immediately, however, due to the condition of the burned body. Dental records were apparently sent out of state to make the formal identification.

Harris was reported missing by his sister after his family had been unable to reach him.

"She said she hadn't heard from him and normally he calls the family every day. She had left several messages for him and he hadn't returned the calls," said NCSO Public Information Officer Courtney Morrison said in an earlier interview. "She had a key to the residence and she went in and noticed things out of place and disturbed."

No other details as to what led to Harris' murder and why his body was found in Atlanta have been released. Atlanta Police Department detectives are continuing to investigate.