DA: Mom, husband tried three times to hire hitman to kill Janell Carwell

Janell Carwell was reported missing in 2017. (Source: WRDW)
Janell Carwell was reported missing in 2017. (Source: WRDW)(WRDW)
Published: Jun. 9, 2020 at 5:49 PM EDT
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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- New information shows the district attorney's office believes a mother and her husband tried to hire a hitman to kill their own daughter.

In April, 2017, Tanya Trip reports her daughter, 16-year-old Janell Carwell, and husband, Leon Tripp, are gone and have not answered their phone.

By May 1, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office issued kidnapping warrants for Leon Tripp. He was finally spotted alone in Atlanta, with Janell nowhere to be found.

Her mom, Tanya, continued praying for Janell’s safe return.

Janell's body was found buried off Golden Camp Road a year after she went missing.

New court records we received show that the DA thinks Tanya and Leon Tripp tried to hire a hitman to kill Janell at least three times.

They say the couple met with someone between September and December of 2015, and then again almost a year later in October 2016. Four months later, Janell went missing.

"She told a very convincing story. We had to peel back those layers. Break down those lies," sheriff Richard Roundtree of RCSO, said. "She was actively helping and aiding him, so she was throwing us off his trail."

On June 12, the sheriff’s office officially called her case a homicide investigation.

Her mother and stepfather are charged with her murder. Leon Tripp faces the death penalty.

Carwell's death has touched the community where she was from.

“A young lady who lost her life and brought the city together.”

Ray Montana led community search teams back then, and he’s still searching for justice in this case right now.

“If anybody forgets Janell's case or don’t know nothing about Janell's case, they’re not a part of our city—our community," Montana said.

With the defense filing dozens of motions, and DA trying to argue against each one, it’s unlikely the trial will soon begin.

But maybe community healing can.

"An emotional point for me...Janell is the sister to this city," Montana said.

The court records show the Tripps attorneys are calling the death penalty unconstitutional in this case. They’re also asking certain evidence like cell phone GPS data and family interviews not be used.

And the defense is looking for the case to be tried in a different county. Ultimately all of these factors are up to a judge to decide.

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