Prosecutors charged a 41-year-old Rochester man Thursday in connection with the death of a 28-year-old woman found dead under a tarp in rural Olmsted County in June.
Tia M. Arleth was reported missing the week before her severely decomposed body was discovered by a person mowing grass in Haverhill Township on June 17.
Timothy D. Loftus is accused of providing Arleth with the heroin and fentanyl that led to her death and subsequently transporting her body to the location it was later found.
Prosecutors charged Loftus on Thursday with third-degree murder by selling, giving or distributing a controlled substance and one count of interference with a dead body in Olmsted County District Court.
According to the criminal complaint, Arleth's mother told investigators she last saw her daughter after dropping her off at Loftus' home on May 29.
Arleth had plans to camp that evening with a friend near Eyota.
Investigators determined Arleth's phone arrived at Loftus' home at 5:20 p.m., before appearing to lose power the morning of May 31.
A man who'd been at Loftus' home before Arleth arrived that day told police Loftus "disappeared" for several days after May 29, "making himself difficult to communicate with either in person for via phone," charges state.
The man also told police he noticed later on the dolly cart Loftus used to move tires around his property was missing.
When Arleth was found dead in the grass, her body was wrapped in a blue tarp and was secured with rope, a tie-down strap and duct tape, according to the criminal complaint. Investigators also noted a nearby dolly cart.
According to charges, officers spoke to another witness who said Loftus had told him that he provided Arleth with the heroin and fentanyl that she died from using.
Loftus allegedly told the man Arleth's body was located in a trailer near his house. The man told investigators he observed a blue tarp in the trailer.
Charges state investigators reviewed doorbell camera footage from June 9 and saw a white trailer in front of Loftus' home.
"Numerous items were piled into the trailer, including a blue tarp that is consistent with the tarp Arleth’s body was wrapped in," charges state.
Loftus' vehicle is later seen hooked up to the trailer. Around an hour and a half later, the trailer is again in front of the home, but the tarp is gone.
A search warrant for Loftus' cell phone data allegedly placed him at the scene where Arleth's body was found.
According to charges, the medical examiner was unable to determine Arleth's cause of death due to the condition of her body. However, toxicology tests were positive for fentanyl and both a hypodermic needle and small plastic bag containing a pill were found on her body.
During a press conference Thursday, Olmsted County Sheriff's Office Capt. James Schueller said investigators are continuing to ask anyone with additional information about Arleth's death to come forward.
"I've been doing this job a long time and nothing prepares you for that type of scene that we came upon that night," he said, adding authorities hope the criminal charges bring some closure to Arleth's family.
Arleth grew up in Rochester, attending both Elton Hills Elementary School and John Adams Middle School. Family members say she'd been trying to get clean from addiction in the time before her death.
"Tia was taken way [too] soon in life, she was very loved by her family [and] friends and the world is a dimmer place without her [bright] shining face," her brother, Dustin Meirer, shared on GoFundMe.
Loftus is expected to appear in court on the charges related to Arleth's death on Friday. He's been in custody since July on separate charges, according to authorities.