New details released about Charleston death

Corryn Brock, Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: This story contains graphic details from a police investigation of a death and police interviews with a man charged in connection with the death.


A police affidavit showing the chain of events leading to the discovery of the body of a Charleston woman provides new details including statements from a police interview with the man charged in connection with the death. 

The suspect, Joshua A. Fairchild, 26, told police “it was clear to him that she wanted him to kill her because she had a look in her eyes like he has seen in the movies of someone that wanted to die,” according to the affidavit. 

According to the police affidavit, police performed a wellbeing check on June 25 at 802 Jackson Ave. in Charleston at the request of Claudine Kent, mother of Cheleta S. Branch, whose body was found at the residence. 

The affidavit states that Kent explained to dispatch that she had not spoken to her daughter since May. She said Branch’s phone was occasionally turned off due to lack of funds, but it was uncommon for her daughter to go so long without attempting to contact her. 

Police arrived at the residence and attempted to make contact with Branch by knocking on the door. When unable to make contact, police left and returned with a lieutenant, who noted an odor he identified as decomposition coming from the home, the affidavit states. 

The odor “grew significantly stronger” as police began to open the door. According to the affidavit, a man’s voice was heard from inside the residence asking what was going on. The man was later identified as Fairchild, who told police the front door could not be opened and he would come out using the back door. 

When Fairchild exited the residence police observed his hands shaking and his face twitching “uncontrollably,” according to the affidavit. He then denied Branch was at the home and said the smell could be coming from dirty dishes, the affidavit states. 

Fairchild denied officers’ request to walk through the home to check for Branch and told them to get a warrant, the affidavit says. 

The affidavit states that after obtaining a warrant, police were able to enter the residence and identified the smell of decomposition as “incredibly strong.” Police could not find anyone in the home but noticed a pile of laundry in the doorway from the living room to the bedroom. 

As police inspected the pile, they noticed several insects in the immediate area. They began peeling back layers of “clothing, sleeping bags, towels, sheets and a tarp” until they were able to see human feet with the “toes down and heels up as if the body were (laying) down on its stomach in the pile.” 

Police then called Coles County Coroner Ed Schniers, who worked with officers and crime scene investigators to peel back the remaining layers until the body was completely uncovered. 

According to the affidavit, Schniers noted that the body had been “in the position for quite some time.” The affidavit states that Schniers guessed that the body could have been there for weeks but he was unable to tell due the heat in the home and the fact that the body and its coverings were wet. 

Police then began interviewing Fairchild as the scene was processed. After being advised of his constitutional rights Fairchild agreed to speak to police, according to the affidavit. 

According to the affidavit, Fairchild said that around “May 20th, or April 20th, or late April,” he and Branch had a verbal argument that turned into a physical altercation. He said Branch grabbed a knife and sliced his hand open and he then gained control of the knife before stabbing Branch in the neck and potentially other places in the head area. 

The affidavit states that police then asked why he did not call the police, and  Fairchild said that “in L.A., a dead body on the side of the street isn’t a big deal.” 

According to the affidavit Fairchild was then arrested on charges of first degree murder and concealment of a homicidal death. 

Fairchild is being held on a $1 million bond in the Coles County Jail.  

Before he can be released on bond, he has been ordered to complete a substance abuse evaluation and comply with recommended treatment. 

He will also undergo a fitness evaluation. 

A status hearing has been set for July 19 at 9 a.m. in Coles County Circuit Court. 

Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]