LAKE CHARLES, La. (KLFY) – A Lake Charles man was arrested on second degree murder charges after a missing persons investigation led police to find he had been driving around in the victim’s vehicle with the body inside.

“We have seen some strange cases here in Calcasieu Parish, but this case is definitely an unusual one for us.” said Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso. “We have never seen someone drive around with a dead body in the SUV for 30 days.”  

According to the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, deputies were dispatched to a house around 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon in reference to a missing person. Family members of Sheila Ortega, 72, of Lake Charles advised deputies they had not spoken to her in approximately one month.  

On Monday, detectives found Ortega dead in her vehicle in a mall parking lot. Detectives identified a person of interest, Christopher T. Cater, 41, Lake Charles, who was an acquaintance of Ortega, at a nearby business. When detectives spoke with him, he admitted to deputies he killed Ortega approximately one month ago. Cater also admitted to opening several loans using Ortega’s information, after her death.

Cater was arrested and booked into the Calcasieu Correctional Center and charged with second degree murder, unlawful disposal of human remains and identity theft. His bond is still pending.  

The body has been sent for further testing and to determine the cause of death.

“My prayers go out to the family and friends of Mrs. Sheila, this is a senseless and inhumane tragedy,” Mancuso said.