Augusta, Ga. (WJBF) - News Monday afternoon left the CSRA community saddened after authorities confirmed the death of a local teen whose kidnapping story went national. The Richmond County Coroner positively identified human remains found in a wooded area behind an Augusta home as 16-year-old LaTania Janell Carwell.
Those bones, found in a shallow grave behind a home in the 2200 block of Golden Camp Road, were identified through dental records.
It is news nobody following the story, which started with the teen's mother reporting her missing shortly after her 16th birthday in April, wanted to hear. But now, those community members who searched and prayed for this teen want justice.
Pastor Angela C. Harden, a local community activist who lead a team of people she calls "Janell's Village" told us she informed her followers on social media to brace themselves before those remains were found.
"I kind of sensed it was Janell," she said after learning about the story of the bones.
It can be considered a nightmare come true for countless people in the CSRA following the story of Janell.
Another community activist closely following Janell's disappearance is Ray Montana. He recounted the second he learned from a friend about her body being found nearly a year after the case was ruled a homicide.
"He said are you alright? I'm like yeah, I'm ok," Montana said of the conversation. "He was like are you sure you're ok? If you need me, I'm here. I'm like what's going on? He said that was her. I almost wrecked my car. I said her who. He said Janell. I almost wrecked the car again."
Three days after authorities found human remains behind the home, law enforcement used dental records to identify Janell. The scene, just one mile from the teen's home on Tate Road, her last known location and a short distance from her parents abandoned truck off Old McDuffie Road. Both of them, Leon and Tanya Tripp are in jail and charged with the crime.
Pastor Harden said it was a community prayer vigil at T.W. Josey High School, where the teen attended, in June that preceded a large scale search just a few feet away from where Janell's body lied in a shallow grave off Golden Camp Road.
"To know that this baby was right across the street within weeks of her disappearance. Oh my God. I think that's the part the really hurts me the most because she laid there for almost a year," said Pastor Harden.
In addition to weekly prayer vigils, billboards and rocks, all efforts to keep Janell's name in the hearts and minds of people, Pastor Harden led searches. She was joined by Ray Montana, who too led a team of concerned citizens through some of the city's roughest parts. Now, both said they just want justice served.
"They need to pay for what they done. There needs to be judgement. There needs to be justice in this case and to the highest level," Pastor Harden said.
Montana admitted that both his team and the Sheriff's Office missed the remains of Janell, but he now has more questions.
"My thoughts are was she dead when she went up there? My thoughts are was she pregnant when she went up there?"
Coroner Mark Bowen said the autopsy will take several days. So, the CSRA must wait more time until for answers. Sheriff Richard Roundtree planned a press conference at his office Tuesday.
Photojournalist: Antony Sherrod
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