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Johnny Cash's great-niece found stabbed to death, sheriff says

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Authorities in Middle Tennessee say the great-niece of singer Johnny Cash has been found stabbed to death and stuffed in a box in a house.

Putnam County Sheriff David Andrews said Thursday that Courtney Cash's body was found Wednesday morning.

Andrews said Cash's body was found in a large chest. A man identified as William Austin Johnson, Cash's boyfriend, was being treated for stab wounds at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

Andrews said the pair had gone out with a friend before an altercation took place in the house where Johnson and Cash lived with their young child. The friend, identified as Wayne Gary Masciarella, has been charged with first-degree murder.

Andrews said Johnson escaped the attack and took the child with him before driving to the hospital.

"There was a struggle," the sheriff said.

The suspect may have been trying to hide Cash's body, Andrews said. 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," Andrews said.

Masciarella 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.

Johnny Cash's brother Tommy Cash, who was Courtney's grandfather, released a statement on behalf of the family. He thanked the public for their support and asked for privacy after "this violent act." 

“We ask for your prayers for the Cash family at this time. 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...We are completely heartbroken. It is a time like this that we are grateful for our faith and trusting the loving guidance of God.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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