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'I located the skull:' Investigator testifies about finding body behind taco restaurant
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Michael Anthony Dean consults with attorney Larry Duttweiler Friday, March 1, 2019, in Hall County Magistrate Court during a committal hearing for a charge of murder in the death of Ricky Lee Sealey, 58. Dean was indicted for concealing a death, but not on the murder charge. Dean was found not guilty on Aug. 28, 2019. - photo by Scott Rogers

Carrying a big stick, a Gainesville Police investigator pushed aside the kudzu behind the Jesse Jewell Parkway El Taco Veloz. She eventually found a skull of a man who had been last seen more than two weeks prior.

Michael Anthony Dean, 34, appeared in Magistrate Court Friday with attorney Larry Duttweiler for a probable cause hearing. Dean was charged with murder in the 2016 death of Ricky Lee Sealey, 58.

Investigator Erin Escalante took the stand Friday, telling the judge about Sealey meeting up with his girlfriend and going to the Krystal on Jesse Jewell Parkway.

Sealey told his girlfriend that he had to meet Dean and that he would return. Sealey would exit the restaurant and head toward the woodline.

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Michael Anthony Dean enters Hall County Magistrate Court Friday, March, 1, 2019, for a committal hearing for a charge of murder in the death of Ricky Lee Sealey, 58. Sealey was reported missing on Aug. 22, 2016, and Gainesville Police found his remains Sept. 2, 2016, in a vacant lot on Jesse Jewell Parkway near El Taco Veloz. - photo by Scott Rogers

A witness told Escalante that he saw Sealey and Dean fighting in the woodline, described as pushing and punching.

Sealey was reported missing on Aug. 22, 2016, and Gainesville Police found his remains Sept. 2, 2016, in a vacant lot on Jesse Jewell Parkway near El Taco Veloz.

According to the warrant, Dean is accused of “meeting Sealey, fighting with him and then concealing his body” Aug. 17, 2016 on Jesse Jewell Parkway.

Escalante described conversations with a number of people who came into contact with Dean around the time of Sealey’s disappearance.

One woman “advised that Mr. Dean had come to her motel room at Motel 6, shirtless, sweating profusely, very nervous, saying that he had done something bad and needed tarps,” Escalante said.

Others who had contact with Dean told investigators Dean “had advised that there was a dead dog behind Krystal and that he needed lime to cover up the decomposition.”

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Chief Judge Margaret Gregory is shown a map Friday, March 1, 2019, where the body of Ricky Lee Sealey was found by Gainesville Police Department Detective Erin Escalante during her testimony in Hall County Magistrate Court. Michael Anthony Dean is charged with murder in the death Sealey. - photo by Scott Rogers

Escalante went out into the wooded area behind El Taco Veloz Sept. 2, 2016, and smelled something decomposing.

“At that point I had a large stick and I was moving the kudzu away. When I did, I got a large smell of human (decomposition) and I located the skull.”

The body was wrapped in a blue blanket, and trash bags were on the legs.

The skull was exposed, and cinder blocks laid on top of the chest.

The cause of death was undetermined, but homicide violence could not be excluded, Escalante said.

Investigators spoke with Dean in January 2017, when the suspect made allegations against Sealey and said, “the world would be a better place without Mr. Sealey.”

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Gainesville Police Department Detective Erin Escalante gives testimony Friday, March 1, 2019, in Hall County Magistrate Court during a committal hearing for Michael Anthony Dean. Dean is charged with murder in the death of Ricky Lee Sealey in 2016. - photo by Scott Rogers

The day after the interview, Dean allegedly made a call to Tmobile that was pinging from New Jersey

Dean was arrested in New Jersey and brought back to Hall County Sunday, Jan. 27.

Duttweiler asked if there had been any motive established.

Escalante said she had heard Sealey had owed Dean $80, though there was also testimony that it was allegedly done to impress a woman.

Pressing on Escalante on the cause of the death, Duttweiler asked if there were any bits of physical evidence on anything at the scene that could have killed Sealey.

Escalante pointed to the cinder blocks but added that it had rained in the time between Sealey’s disappearance and the body’s recovery.

Acknowledging the case is circumstantial, the judge moved the case on to Superior Court.

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The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Gainesville Police Department work the scene Sept. 2, 2016, where human remains were found Friday afternoon in a vacant lot at the intersection of Jesse Jewell Parkway and Dorsey Street. - photo by Erin O. Smith
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