HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Johnnie Brunner vanished from a Southside apartment complex in February, and his body was found last week in Henrico.
With the discovery, Richmond detectives handed the case over to Henrico Police's criminal investigations division. They are classifying Brunner’s death as "suspicious."
Known throughout the city as "J Love," 45-year-old Brunner disappeared after he was picked up from the Belt Atlantic apartments off Midlothian on Feb. 9. He is the father to nine kids.
"It was one of my other son’s birthdays when I found out he was missing,” his mother, Mary Eaton said. “And it was on my birthday when they found his body. So it's been tough on me. I really don't care for the month of April anymore, because it's brought nothing but pain."
His body was found behind a home last week in the 7600 block of Hawthorne Avenue near Wilkinson Road in Henrico County, in some tall grass and debris.
"He had to have been with someone he trusted because he didn't know that area,” said his sister, Shawana Brunner. “He knows the Southside. It’s just tragic."
She said the loss of her brother is hard to understand. "It's the most painful thing I’ve ever been through in my life and we were tight,” Shawana said. “He didn't deserve this."
Richmond Police said they suspected foul play during the search for Brunner.
However, to what extent is unknown. As of right now, Henrico will only confirm his death is suspicious.
Brunner’s father says he’s grateful his body was found but is still grieving the unexpected loss.
"I couldn't rest,” said George Lampley. “Knowing he was out there somewhere, but not knowing what condition, made it hard. No human being deserves this."
Johnnie Brunner will be laid to rest on April 25.