Sheriff points to mother's deception and vacant home in LaTania Janell Carwell case

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) - - Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree came forward to discuss details days after law enforcement found the body of LaTania Janell Carwell.  

As people reflect on the case, there are still many questions left unanswered.  Tuesday, the Sheriff walked through the past year that Janell was missing.  He said more details will be revealed when the autopsy is completed.

But members of the community have answers now. 

"How long was she actually suffering?," said Pastor Angela C. Harden, a local community activist. "When did she actually die?  What did they actually do to her?"

Ray Montana, who also worked in the search to find Janell, said he has questions too.

"Did he kill her before he drug her up that big old hill. Or did he come from behind because we walked all back there."

Question after question plagues the community that grew to love LaTania Janell Carwell in the months between when she was reported missing just after her 16th birthday until now.  Armed with confirmation that human remains found on Golden Camp Road are hers, Sheriff Richard Roundtree said the case can move forward.  

"Anytime you try a case and you do not have remains, it's always that small amount of doubt that can be in the jury's minds that the person is not deceased, especially based on some rumors that went on when this first started," said Sheriff Roundtree, who added that Georgia has delivered a murder conviction without a body.  "This lays that speculation to rest."

Roundtree addressed how his office investigated the disappearance of the teen, admitting they were misguided by what he called a well rehearsed story given by Tanya Tripp on the night her husband, Leon Tripp and daughter left their Tate Road home.  And he said even though he conducted several searches, including one directly across the street from where remains were located, they were at a disadvantage.

"The remains were found in the backyard of a residence we found out was vacant at the time," he explained.  "When the bank took over and the person was prepared to move in, surveying the property they came across it.  During our search, we only searched common areas and we encouraged the public to search their yards."

The Sheriff said he expects the pending autopsy will answer questions people still want to know.  So far, we know the case focuses on the Terrace Manor area.  Starting with Janell's last known location at her Tate Road home, her body nearby on Golden Camp Road and the family's truck abandoned off Old McDuffie Road. 

"The people we have in custody are responsible for her death," Sheriff Roundtree said.

As the case moves into its next phase, which is going before a grand jury for indictment, the community still mourns.  

Many community members expressed wanting to help financially with costs to give Janell a proper burial.  The Carwell family approved just one donation page organized by Chavis Lawrence.  You can donate through the page here.  Anyone else wanting ot set up financial contributions should contact the Richmond County Sheriff's Office. 

Photojournalist: Mark Gaskins



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