Community leaders react to new information in Janell Carwell case

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Richmond County prosecutors submitted new evidence in the murder of LaTania Janell Carwell.

The newest court documents introduced in early April show prosecutors want to add new evidence that Leon and Tanya Tripp are connected to a murder plot that stretches back nearly two years before Janell Carwell, their daughter, went missing.

“Perhaps they did solicit someone,” said Ray Montana, Street Justice Council Founder. “But the fact still remains that everything is pointing at them and I hope that they die by the hands of the state.”

The shocking twist in the murder case of Janell Carwell is a notice of the state’s intent to introduce similar act evidence ahead of trial. It shows Leon and Tanya Tripp solicited and attempted to commit murder against Carwell September to December 2015 and two reported meetings in October 2016. The news, coming three years after the teen went missing, reached Ray Montana who spent months searching.

He told us, “Days and days of 100 degrees, sweating. Many of our people fell out. A couple of them went to the hospital. One young lady had to get a spinal tap because of the heat and everything. It was definitely emotional. It caused depression in a lot of our lives because if affected the community. Janell was like one of our own kids.”

Prosecutors state they offered the new evidence to show several things such as motive, intent, preparation, a plan, and prior knowledge. It’s something that Pastor Angela C. Harden said the community heard about before.

“We heard that back in ’17 that there could possibly be another person, but we heard nothing else,” Pastor Harden said. “So now, to have it documented. I’m not surprised. I believe some more surprises are going to come out of this case. We just want justice.”

Janell’s aunt ShaDarrell Carwell, the wife of the teen’s late uncle and Tanya Tripp’s brother Charles Carwell, shared these words following the update:

“I’m at a loss for words and completely heartbroken. She had her whole life ahead of her. I feel so bad. We were so close to her and never knew she was in that much danger.”

She added the Tripps had their minds made up and were consistent and determined to have her niece gone.

We have yet to know that plan, but Montana said while searching the area several months prior to where Carwell’s remains was later located, he tried to give all tips to investigators about possible additional involvement.

“A guy approached the door with a gun in his hand. He said, ‘you gon have to get off this property.’ I said I know you’re renting this property, but the owner of this property told me I could search this property. He said, ‘no, you’re going to have to leave this property.’ He had his gun in his hand. I went straight to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and told them about the gentleman, told them about the property and told them my assumptions about Janell being on that property.”

“What was it that’s so bad to cause a mother to want to do that. And then get someone to help. We’re in some sad times,” said Pastor Harden. “As a spiritual leader, anytime you leave God out. And I believe that’s what’s happening in the earth right now. We have left God out.”

District Attorney Natalie Paine is working on a way to both honor Janell and help families in the future. Richmond, Columbia and Burke Counties, all of the counties Paine serves, will all get a new cadaver dog.

The German Shepherd/Malinois mix will help find missing people, even people who may still be alive. The cadaver dog is named Dora, but Paine said she wants to incorporate Janell’s name. She’s in training in North Carolina and the handler is local. We will share it with you when it happens.

Unified Appeal Process hearings will take place on Tuesday, June 30 and Wednesday, July 1 in Court Room 2H of the Richmond County Judicial Center, with Judge Daniel Craig presiding. Paine said Leon Tripp is expected to attend.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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