Briana Winston death: Woman's body burned in Tennessee after being killed in Georgia

A Clayton County mother was choked to death then burned in Tennessee by her boyfriend, investigators revealed during a press conference at 2:30 p.m. Monday giving an update on the arrest of a man for the murder of Briana Winston

"It was not a crime that was committed in the heat of passion, there was malice," said Lt. Ashanti Marbury with the Clayton County Police Department. "There was some intent there." 

According to police, Winston was killed on March 17 during an early morning argument with Michale Edwards about his alleged infidelity. Winston was reportedly strangled to death. 

"Edwards did go to Briana's apartment during the early morning hours of March 17 and in an argument where she confronted him after learning about his infidelity to her, he choked her," Lt. Marbury said. 

Police say that Edwards then put her body in a suitcase and drove to a friend's home in Gates, Tennessee. That person helped Edwards burn Winston's body in a burn barrel, using a shovel to break down the woman's bones and speed up the process.

"Together, the two men placed a suitcase inside of a burned barrel located behind the home, they doused it with accelerant, lit a fire, and they kept their fire burning from the early afternoon until nightfall," Marbury said. 

Investigators say they figured all this out with the help of that other man who assisted Edwards. Prosecutors offered him an immunity agreement. According to that unidentified man, the two then disposed of Winston's bones in two different areas. 

After Winston's body was burned, Edwards allegedly dumped part of it in a cemetery behind a church in Ripley, Tennessee, and part of it along Interstate 40 in Tennessee.

Clayton County police say during the investigation Edwards was in jail on another charge unrelated to the murder but was caught on a jail call asking his wife, Brieanna Phillips-Edwards to burn a pair of shoes and gloves. She faces several charges including party to commission of a crime-murder.

Investigators say Edward's mom, Ebony Anderson and his brother Keilan Wright are also charged with helping destroy evidence. 

"It turned into a family affair," Marbury said. "He definitely looped everyone into this crime." 

Additionally, Brienna Phillips-Edwards is also facing charges for providing false statements to police and for providing Edwards with a vehicle to take Winston's body to Tennessee. Phillips-Edwards and Edwards were reportedly married in a secret ceremony in January. 

The man in Tennessee spoke with police under a proffer agreement, meaning he will not be charged for helping Edwards. 

Michale Edwards was booked into the Clayton County Jail last Thursday. He is also facing an aggravated stalking charge. He is currently being held on no bond. 

Winston shares a 4-year-old son with Edwards. 

Winston's family was at the news conference. They were too broken up to speak but said off camera that they were grateful that they finally knew what happened to Briana. 


Briana Winston (Photo supplied by family)

When was Winston reported missing

Winston, 23, was reported missing at the beginning of April. As the search progressed, investigators gathered evidence suggesting Winston was murdered.

Winston's cousin, Jasmine Walker, said the family found out from a friend that Winston was last seen heading back to the apartment. She shared this apartment with Michale Edwards, her child's father and boyfriend.

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Michale Edwards (Clayton County Sheriff's Office)

After not hearing from Winston for a while, her cousin asked the apartment complex to do a welfare check on her. Family members said the apartment smelled like bleach, like it had been cleaned out.  

Walker reported her cousin missing to the Clayton County Police Department on April 1, but the family did not receive the news of her death until April 26.

Police named Edwards and his wife, Brienna Phillips-Edwards, as persons of interest in the case. The relationship between the three is not fully known.

Phillips-Edwards was arrested for making false statements but was later released on bond. When asked if the false statements were about Winston's disappearance, police said they could not confirm that information.