UPDATE | Bond totals $850K for mother accused of concealing daughters' death

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Friday, Dec. 22, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Tanya Tripp, the woman accused of concealing the death of her own child, walked into a courtroom for a bond hearing for the fourth time Friday.

State investigators believe Tripp knows what happened to her 16-year-old daughter Janell Carwell.

Investigatiors say Carwell disappeared from her Tate Rd. home in the middle of the night with her step-dad last spring.

It was the night before her 16th birthday.

Since then her mother and step-dad have gone to jail and are charged in connection to her presumed death.

"Mrs. Tripp has attempted to write letters to Mr. Tripp. It's very obvious that she knows Janell is deceased," said District Attorney Natalie Paine in court.

The public defender representing Tanya Tripp says she questions who wrote the letters to Leon Tripp the district attorney mentioned.

Tripps' attorney says the case has been covered heavily in the media and people inside the jail are aware of the case.

"It is the states position, and this is based on evidence, that Mrs. Tripp would do just about anything to help Leon Tripp escape prosecution on these charges," said District Attorney Paine.

Time has run out for Tripp to sit in jail without an indictment.

A judge set Tripps bond at $550,000 in Sept. of 2017 after 90 days passed without an indictment on her first charge of hindering the apprehension of her husband, Leon Tripp.

Friday Judge Ashley Wright set Tripps' bond at $300,000 on her concealing a death charge.

Tripp was charged with concealing the death of Janell Carwell after she spent several months in jail.

"This case has not gone to grand jury yet. We are waiting for the Sheriffs Office to turn the case file over," said Paine.

District Attorney Paine tells me she plans to get the case file from Richmond County Sheriffs Office investigators today.

Tripp had little to say in the courtroom other than to murmur her youngest daughters name to the judge when asked.

Collectively, Tanya Tripps' bond is set at $850,000.

Judge Wright set the conditions of bond as no contact with her husband, Leon Tripp, or her 7-year-old daughter.

Tripp also has to stay in Georgia as a condition of bond.

Judge Wright was uncomfortable with where Tripp would stay if she were to be released from jail.

The public defender representing Tripp says she would most likely stay with Leon Tripps' brother who lives in Atlanta.


(News 12 at 6 O’Clock / NBC 26 News at 7) -- A mother accused of concealing the death of her daughter was granted a $300,000 bond Friday in court.

Tanya Tripp was already denied bond for allegedly concealing the death of her 16-year-old daughter, Janell Carwell, after she went missing in April along with her step-dad.

Her step-dad is now in jail accused of kidnapping and murdering the 16-year-old.

According to Georgia law, Tripps bond had to be reconsidered because it's been more than 90 days without an indictment on those charges.

The same thing has happened before. 90 days expired on her first charge of hindering the apprehension of a criminal, without an indictment. Back then her bond was set at $550,200.

That puts her total bond at $850,000.

As condition of bond she is not allowed any contact with her husband Leon Tripp or her youngest daughter.


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – The court was silent, except for camera shutters, as the man accused in the death and disappearance of his 16-year-old step-daughter Janell Carwell walked into the courtroom.

Leon Tripp’s head was down and his hands cuffed in front of a judge to have his bond set on his kidnapping charge.

District Attorney Natalie Paine gave the judge new details into the case of Carwell in an attempt to have Tripp’s bond set at $1 million dollars.

“He wanted to see his kids. He wanted to see his mom,” said DA Paine, “He told investigators he was going to show them where Janell’s body was. Ultimately that did not come to fruition. He spoke with his attorney and decided not to do that.”

Tripp’s attorney Peter Johnson says there is more unknown about this case than known.

“We have a situation here where the District Attorney wants to hold this man hostage because they think he knows something that he is not sharing,” said Johnson.

But the judge says it's pretty obvious Tripp knows something he's not sharing.

Judge: "I'm setting bond at 500k"

The conditions of Tripp’s $500,000 dollar bond is no contact with the victim’s family, including his wife Tanya Tripp.

Tripp will also have to wear an ankle monitor and stay in either Richmond or Columbia County as conditions of bail.

Even if someone pays this bond, Tripp will stay in jail on his murder charge. The only reason this bond hearing is happening is because Tripp has been in jail too long of a period of time without being indicted.

The district attorney says the indictments are imminent.


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Bond has been set at $500,000 for Leon Tripp, stepfather and someone investigators say is partly responsible for the disappearance and death of Janell Carwell.

In a bond hearing on Friday, a judge ruled that if Leon Tripp does make bond he will have to wear a GPS tracking device and live in either Richmond or Columbia County.

Previously, Leon Tripp told investigators that he would close the case. Tripp indicated he wanted to see his kids and said he would show investigators where Janell's body was. The district attorney says he spoke with his attorney and ultimately decided not to do that.

The DA says Leon Tripp also had a run-in with Tanya Tripp's estranged brother the day before both Leon and Tanya were caught at the U-Haul location in Atlanta.

Tripp's attorney says there are more things unanswered than answered in this case. Leon Tripp reportedly dropped out of school in the 9th Grade and had been working for a living ever since.

Back in September, Janell Carwell's mother Tanya Tripp was granted bond for $500,000. As of Friday, she is still listed in Richmond County jail.

This was Leon Tripp's second bond hearing for his kidnapping charge. Tripp still hasn't been granted bond on a murder charge.




Friday, Sept. 15, 2017

(WRDW/WAGT) -- Investigators who say the person they believe is partly responsible for the Janell Carwell disappearance and death has a bond set for $500,000.

Today's bond hearing for Tanya Tripp was actually on her original charge of hindering the apprehension of a criminal.

Authorities charged Leon Tripp with murder and Tanya Tripp with concealing a death in August.

According to authorities, upon meeting with the District Attorney’s Office and after reviewing the evidence and the interviews in the case of Latania Janell Carwell, it was decided to proceed with the charge of murder for Leon Tripp along with the original charge of kidnapping in regards to the disappearance of his stepdaughter.

In addition, the charge of concealing a death was added to Tanya Tripp in pertaining to this case. The warrants were served on Leon Tripp and Tanya Tripp at the Charles B. Webster Detention Center in August.

Investigators now know more about the disappearance of 16-year-old Latania Janell Carwell than they did three months ago.



Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017

(WRDW/WAGT) -- Authorities are charging Leon Tripp with murder and Tanya Tripp with concealing a death.

According to authorities, upon meeting with the District Attorney’s Office and after reviewing the evidence and the interviews in the case of Latania Janell Carwell, it was decided to proceed with the charge of murder for Tripp along with the original charge of kidnapping in regards to the disappearance of his stepdaughter.

In addition, the charge of concealing a death was added to Tanya Tripp in regards to this case. The warrants were served on Leon Tripp and Tanya Tripp at the Charles B. Webster Detention Center today where both are currently being held on the original charges.



Monday, July 31, 2017

(WRDW/WAGT) -- Investigators now know more about the disappearance of 16-year-old Latania Janell Carwell than they did three months ago.

They believe 16-year-old Janell is dead.

Investigators also say the two people they believe are responsible are in Richmond County Sheriffs Office custody, but three months into the investigation they still don't know where Janell is.

They say the reason for that stems from the first lie they were told by her mother, Tanya Tripp.

"I heard the truck crank up and I heard the back door slam," said Tanya Tripp on April 26, 2017.

"I said what in the world is this man doing [...] I said I love y'all. Let me know when y'all are on your way back."

"I heard her say I love you, mommy."

"Originally she told a really good story and a lot of people came to her aid," said Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree. "It's taken us that long just to peel back those layers and break down all those lies."

Janell Carwell was a quiet, high school sophomore.

She went to T.W. Josey High School and investigators say on her 16th birthday she vanished into the night.

"This little girl here I'd wait to see her walk across the street. I'd wait to see her walk across the street. I'd say did you have a good day at school? She'd say alright. I'd say making all A's? She'd say [kind of.]," said Tate Rd. neighbor Elliot Thales. "When I didn't see her I asked my friend. I said what's going on? I said tomorrow I'm going to make sure I'm out here. I sat right here and I waited for the bus to pull off and I didn't see her. I said where she at. That's when I started hearing the news," said Thales.

Investigators say Janell went missing on April 17, 2017, along with her step-dad Leon Tripp.

Investigators say they can place Janell at her home on Tate Rd. around midnight, but at 8:50 the night of her birthday her mother told deputies another story.

Tanya Tripp told investigators her husband and her daughter left together at 1:30 a.m. on the 17th to help a man named Maurice because Leon "didn't want to ride alone," but investigators suspect Leon Tripp went to Atlanta and Janell never made it that far.

"So, once we start tearing away those falsehoods then we come up with the true narrative that she did not leave the home on her own like the mother originally said," said Roundtree. "We issued the kidnapping warrants and she openly denied and said that wasn't true, so she fought us every step of the way."

"Here's a mother we are telling we have evidence that this man did something to your child and she is adamantly defending him," said Roundtree. "Come to find out later that she had multiple encounters with him after the warrant was issued. That he was sneaking back to Augusta."

"We definitely had an idea she was communicating with him that's why we were able to track him. We were surprised as anyone when we found her actually with him. Tanya Tripp was actively helping and aiding him. She was throwing us off the trail," said Roundtree.

It was hardly the only twist in the investigation.

Sheriff Richard Roundtree reveals after Leon and Tanya Tripps' arrest in Atlanta Leon cracked; telling the sheriff his step-daughter was dead.

"We were able to have a conversation before it ended and he invoked his right to counsel," said Sheriff Roundtree. "I will tell you just like I told Leon Tripp. Eventually, we are going to find her and we are going to prosecute you. I meant it then and I mean it now," said Roundtree.

I asked Sheriff Roundtree what Leon Tripp said back to him and what his demeanor was during their conversation.

"I've interviewed hundreds of people convicted of homicide. It is a different caliber of person who can actually harm a child and you can see that in him," said Roundtree.

Janell Carwell was missing for more than two months when Sheriff Richard Roundtree made his first public comments on the investigation, saying investigators believe Carwell is dead and investigators were confident Carwells' remains would be found that week.

"We tried to generate as much public attention as we possibly could. It was our belief and it is still our belief that within that three-month time frame that either Leon or Tanya Tripp have told another individual what happened," said Roundtree. "We got a lot of general tips. Check all the wells, check all the ... We wanted that one call from that one person saying you need to go look here. and we would have immediately gone to look there and that's what we are hoping for."

Investigators were also hoping their forensic evidence would lead them to Janell's body.

Hundreds of deputies searched where the sheriff told us Leon and Janells' cell phones pinged the night of her disappearance.

Sheriff Roundtree says the phones pinged near their Tate Rd. home and in the dense woods surrounding the Regency Mall, just a few miles away, but no Janell.

I asked Roundtree had investigators run out of leads or hit a roadblock.

This was his answer:

"I don't think you ever. We've run out of active leads, but social media is still working, keeping the case alive," said Roundtree. "Right now we are pretty much in a holding pattern."

A holding pattern that could affect the prosecutions' case against Janell Carwells' mother and step-father.

District Attorney Natalie Paine can't talk specifically about Janell's case but can talk about the law.

"I know this can be frustrating for families, but obviously from where I am sitting and as a prosecutor, the important thing is to do justice and we don't basically want to do a victim short, by pursuing a murder charge when we don't have the evidence to go forward on a murder charge yet," said Paine.

I asked Roundtree how often investigators interviewed the Tripps.

"Again it's a legal process. So both of them have legal counsel. We have no direct conversations with them unless they initiate the conversation. We monitor their behavior. We monitor the situation that is going on in our facility. That's where the frustration comes in, in that, we know these individuals have the information we need to bring this case to a close. To bring this soul to rest. and they refuse to do so," said Sheriff Roundtree.

District Attorney Natalie Paine Says in Georgia you can go forward on a murder charge without a body, but it's got to be a strong circumstantial case.

I did reach out to Leon Tripps' attorney on the phone to see if he would sit down to talk to us and he told me had "no comment."

The case will land before a grand jury in the next six weeks.

Media will not be told when that's happening or allowed inside, but afterward, indictments will be unsealed and we will hopefully have a lot more to share.