A man charged with murder in the disappearance of a Gary mother told a friend he “lost it” while the friend accompanied him to find a location in Illinois to hide the woman’s body.
James E. McGhee, 38, is accused of beating 27-year-old Sidne-Nichole Buchanan to death at his Gary apartment after they attended a concert July 27 in Tinley Park, and dumping her body in a forest preserve off Ill. 394 in unincorporated Cook County.
It’s not the first time McGhee has been accused of abusing a girlfriend. He is currently on probation for beating a pregnant girlfriend so badly in 2017 that she lost three of the four fetuses she was carrying and kidnapping her and her child several months after the attack.
Buchanan, a mother of two, went missing July 27 after posting a video on social media of herself and McGhee attending a Wiz Khalifa concert in Tinley Park, court records state.
Defense attorney Jamise Perkins, who negotiated McGhee’s plea deal in the 2016 cases and anticipated she would be hired to represent him in the murder case, said McGhee had been in contact with detectives at the FBI’s Gang Response Investigative Task Force and Buchanan’s family. He was on his way to turn himself in Wednesday night when he was arrested, she said.
“He’s always maintained his innocence,” she said. “I think he’s just looking forward to his day in court.”
McGhee is being held without bail in the murder case. Prosecutors have not yet filed a petition to revoke his probation in the earlier cases, but Perkins said she is expecting the filing.
Police spoke with the friend after receiving an anonymous tip that he had helped McGhee dispose of Buchanan’s body after McGhee killed her, court records state.
The friend, who was offered immunity from prosecution for his cooperation with authorities, led a detective to a row of trees and brush that ran parallel to a frontage road Aug. 13 at the Cook County Forest Preserve.
There, the detective detected an odor of death and discovered human remains in a small void along the tree line. The remains were in an advanced state of decomposition, and a cause and manner of death has not yet been determined, Lake Criminal Court records state.
The friend told police McGhee called him July 28, took him along to find a location in the forest preserve, then returned to Gary and asked him to help clean up McGhee’s apartment.
The friend said McGhee told him Buchanan was having sex with another man and he became angry, court records say.
The man said McGhee’s apartment was in disarray, and he saw blood on mattresses in both bedrooms. He saw what appeared to be a body concealed in black bags near the foot of a bed, became overwhelmed and went outside, according to court documents.
The man told police McGhee showed him a picture of a woman believed to be Buchanan, saying, “I beat her up bad. This is when she was living,” records allege.
The man said he refused to help McGhee clean his apartment at the Concord Commons in the 1900 block of Burr Street in Gary.
Police previously canvassed that area after learning McGhee and Buchanan’s cellphones had been active in that area from just after midnight July 27 to about 9 a.m. July 28. A neighbor showed police where McGhee lived, court records state.
When police executed a search warrant at the apartment Aug. 1, they found no one inside but smelled a strong odor of cleaning products.
Further investigation revealed the carpets in two bedrooms recently had been cleaned. When authorities removed the carpets, they found dark stains under both of them. Tests detected urine in one bedroom, and blood in another bedroom, court records allege.
McGhee’s initial appearance is scheduled for Friday, Perkins said.