Police investigate gruesome Titusville slaying

Autopsy to determine cause of death in Brevard case

TITUSVILLE, Fla. - Titusville detectives plan to interview the lone survivor of a deadly traffic crash that killed a person of interest in a gruesome slaying that left a 41-year-old woman dead.

The traffic death happened hours after Titusville police issued an alert for a man now identified as 21-year-old Christian Joseph Murphy who was believed to be traveling in a gold Nissan taken from a home in the 200 block of Avilez Boulevard where remains tentatively identified as Michelle Renee Chappell were found.

"We know that they were not strangers to each other they did know each other," said Titusville police Sgt. Tom House. "How they knew each other or what capacity they knew each other we're not ready to discuss at this time."

According to authorities, the victim was dismembered and beheaded, with her remains placed in containers, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.

Chappell, a one-time waitress with a history of domestic violence-related charges, and Murphy -- who is the person of interest -- knew each other and the slaying was not a random act, police said. Detectives talked with Chappell's relatives on Monday, but say positive identification will be made by the Brevard County Medical Examiner's Office. 

"Really sweet girl and she had the prettiest voice," said neighbor Melissa Bennae. "I'm just really upset."

Before the remains were collected and removed from the home, officers learned that Murphy was seen leaving the Titusville neighborhood earlier in the day. About 9:30 p.m. Sunday, Camden County Georgia Sheriff's Department deputies spotted the Nissan heading northbound on Interstate 95 and attempted to pull the vehicle over for a traffic stop.

"We had two deputies sitting out looking for the vehicle," said Camden County Deputy William Terrell.

The driver, possibly a woman, then led deputies on a chase on Interstate 95.

"It was a brief pursuit. At times, it was a high-speed pursuit," Terrell said.

"The driver came up on some traffic, went to the right and appeared to over-correct. The (Nissan) went into the median, into the trees. It was dark. (The person of interest) was deceased at the scene," Terrell said.

A second person, the female driver, was taken into custody. The driver could face charges in Florida based on her connection to the crime.

The woman's death was reported Sunday afternoon to Titusville police and is the fourth reported homicide of the year in Brevard County. An autopsy was set to take place Monday to help determine how Chappell was killed and what was used in the dismemberment.

Anyone with information in the case is asked to call Crimeline at 800-423-TIPS.

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