Cops: Johnny Cash's great-niece stabbed to death in Tenn. home

Courtney Cash, great-niece of late country singer Johnny Cash, was found stabbed to death and stuffed in a box in Tennessee Wednesday morning.
CBS affiliate WTVF

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - Courtney Cash, the great-niece of the late singer Johnny Cash, has been found stabbed to death and stuffed in a box in the Tennessee home she shared with her boyfriend and young child, authorities said Thursday.

Putnam County Sheriff David Andrews said Courtney Cash's body was found Wednesday morning in her home near Cookeville, about 70 miles east of Nashville. CBS affiliate WTVF reports that the suspect was identified as 27-year-old Wayne Gary Masciarella, who has been charged with first-degree murder. Additional charges are expected.

Cash's body was found in a chest just inside the front door, Andrews said. A man identified as William Austin Johnson, Cash's boyfriend, was being treated for stab wounds at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, according to the sheriff.

Suspect Wayne Gary Masciarella, 27.
CBS affiliate WTVF
Andrews said the pair had gone out with Masciarella, their friend, before an altercation took place in the house.

Johnson escaped the attack and took the child with him before driving to the hospital, according to Andrews. WTVF reports that the child was unharmed.

The scene inside the house was "somewhat bloody," Andrews told reporters at a news conference. "There was a struggle," the sheriff said. He also said that the suspect may have been trying to hide Cash's body. A motive was not released, but Andrews indicated the stabbings were likely connected to drugs.

"This is a senseless, tragic death of a young lady whose life was probably taken as a direct or indirect result of drugs," said Andrews. "The first thing that comes to my mind is a friendship gone bad. That's exactly what it looks like - that friends were either hanging out together, had been somewhere and came here. Some altercation broke out and we have one woman deceased."

Johnny Cash's brother, Tommy Cash, released a statement asking for prayers for the family after the loss of his granddaughter.

"We ask for your prayers for the Cash family at this time," the statement said. "Courtney and her boyfriend are beloved members of my family and like you we have a lot of questions and emotions that we are beginning to sort through today."

Authorities told WTVF that Mascariella has a long criminal history, including charges for theft, aggravated assault, evading arrest, possession, public intoxication, violation of probation and failure to appear in court.

The suspect is being held without bond. He has a court date scheduled for April 21. Officials in Putnam County said they do not know if he has a lawyer.