Body of missing Jackson County woman found in well after police say man admitted to murder

Sharon Myers
Jackson Newspapers
Michael Smith

The body of a missing Jackson County woman has been recovered after a man admitted to shooting her in the head and stuffing the body down a well.

The Kanawha and Jackson County Sheriff’s Departments said in a press conference on Monday that Michael Wayne Smith, 41, of Alderson, is being charged with first-degree murder in the death of Cheyenne Johnson who was reported missing last week. She was last seen Thursday, April 29 near Cottageville in Jackson County

Law enforcement said they identified Smith as a suspect the following day after receiving a tip about an overheard conversation regarding the murder of ‘sunshine’, which was Johnson’s nickname.

Cheyenne Johnson

After receiving further information, law enforcement went to Britton Ridge Road in Kanawha County where they interviewed Michael Smith and his girlfriend.

Law enforcement said Smith admitted to shooting Johnson in the back of the head and dumping her body in a deepwater well on the property after an altercation over a car on Friday.

According to police, Smith said in a recorded statement Johnson stole his girlfriend’s car Thursday evening and a confrontation happened Friday when she returned with the vehicle. He said the argument escalated when Johnson allegedly pulled out a knife. Smith said he then took a .308 caliber rifle from his vehicle and shot Johnson in the head once, killing her.

He told deputies he took Johnson’s body to the well on his property and drove the firearm, a knife, one of her shoes, cigarettes, and a lighter to the Ripley area of Jackson County.

Johnsons' body was recovered from the deepwater well on Monday afternoon and identified through tattoos. Additional confirmation will be conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Smith had been released from jail on April 15 and was on parole at the time of the shooting.

Contributing reporter: Suzette Lowe 

General news reporter Sharon Myers can be reached at sharon.myers@the-dispatch.com. Follow her on Twitter @LexDispatchSM.