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Missing hair salon employee found murdered in Paulding County

Authorities have identified a body found behind an auto body shop as that of a man reported missing.

At Van Michael Salon in Sandy Springs Thursday night, friends and co-workers of Howard Sewell mourned for him.

PAULDING COUNTY, GA -- The family and friends of Howard Sewell said Thursday night they are determined to do all they can to help find out who killed him.

Paulding County's Sheriff told them last week that a body found on June 3 was, in fact, Sewell.

Sewell had disappeared a few days earlier from neighboring Cobb County.

The Sheriff made the positive ID public late Thursday afternoon, and said Sewell was a victim of homicide.

Now his family and friends are wondering if the motive was robbery, they just don't know.

VIDEO: 11Alive News 11:00 p.m. June 16, 2016

They gathered at Taylor-Brawner Park in Smyrna Thursday at sunset, their first chance to be together since finding out Sewell had been killed.

He had vanished on his 35th birthday, Sunday, May 29. He was last seen by family at his Cobb County home five days before his body was found June 3rd in Paulding County.

The GBI Crime Lab positively identified the body partly through dental records, and partly through the DNA of Sewell’s younger sister, Faith Sewell Melton.

Detectives were not able to tell the family much about what happened to him.

"Just that he had been murdered,” Melton said Thursday night. “We don’t really know the details. We do know that his body was unrecognizable. Which led us to believe he’d been through a lot."

The GoFundMe page they set up to raise money for tips to help find Sewell will now raise money to help find his killer.

“Our hearts are hurting,” said Sewell’s mother and stepfather, Sonya and Eddie Inman, Thursday night. They are pleading with the killer(s) to surrender, and pleading with those who have information to call it in.

“I know that something really dreadful happened to my son, I know that something really cruel happened to him,” Sonya Inman said. “We know our son, and we know he would not have disappeared unless someone hurt him. I’m praying that someone – I know somebody knows what happened to my son. I know that they know. And I’m praying that you have a heart. I’m praying that you know if you had someone in your family who was hurt, you would want someone to know. Please come forward. Please do not keep us in limbo and allow us to go through this not knowing what happened to our son. You know. You know. You did it or you were there. Somebody knows. Somebody was with him, Sunday night, May 29th, on his birthday. You were with him. Come forward, please. Come forward.”

Sewell worked at Van Michael Salon in Sandy Springs, in maintenance and housekeeping. Co-workers held a candlelight vigil for him Thursday night.

“Howard was dearly loved,” Melton said. “We have to find the people responsible for this. Right now, we’re lost. We need answers. We’re searching for answers. And we’re praying for answers. And we’re longing for answers. And we’re begging for answers. And we’re so relentless, and everyone who loved him is so relentless, we’re going to keep reaching out to police and to the public, we’ll keep reaching out until we find something…. Not only is it justice that we’re searching for, we’re also attempting to prevent this from happening to anyone else. Because anyone capable of harming someone or taking someone’s life is capable of it happening again. And we don’t want this to happen to anyone else, we couldn’t fathom anyone going through what we’ve been through.”

Melton began to cry as she spoke about him.

"Howard had a beautiful soul. He matured into just a wonderful, light-hearted outgoing young man that would give the world to anyone else and not ask for anything in return.”

He worked hard, she said, and loved to read.

“He’d have his nose in a book, in a deep book that most people wouldn’t even expect him to be reading, but that was his personality. He was very smart, he loved research, and he always encouraged me to do more, don’t stop, always look for more, always learn more, knowledge is power. And that was just, that was him.”

If she could speak with him now, she said, through her tears, “I would tell him how sorry I am that he had to go through this. And I would tell him how much he’s loved, even though I know he knew it. I think I would just tell him how much we love him and how much we miss him, and how much I need him. How much I need him so bad. And to never leave me again."

Sewell's employer, Van Michael Salon, has pledged to increase an existing Crime Stoppers reward to $3,000. They issued a statement saying:

"We would like to thank the media and members of the community who have come together to help us, along with Howard's family and friends, in the search to locate our beloved co-worker. It is with heavy hearts that we must now shift our efforts to finding the person(s) responsible for his death. With that, the Van Michael Salon family has pledged to increase the existing Crime Stoppers reward to $3,000 for information leading to an arrest. We are committed to finding justice for Howard and providing much-needed closure for his family and friends," said Michael Council, co-founder of Van Michael Salon."

Howard Sewell’s funeral will be Sunday, June 19, at 3:00 p.m., at Browns Chapel Baptist Church, 1020 Brown Chapel Rd., Bishop, GA 30621. Bishop is on U.S. Highway 441, about seven miles south of the Exit 4 interchange with the U.S. 78 loop in Athens.

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