UPDATE | Community holds sheriff approved search for 16-year-old Janell Carwell

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Thursday June 15, 2017

Leon Tripp (left) and Tanya Tripp (right)

News 12 NBC 26 / June 15, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- While yesterday investigators told the community to stay away from the search, today, the community re-traced investigators steps.

"She is Augusta's own," said Pastor Angela Harden.

Community members prayed in a crowded studio to be able to do what law enforcement's been trying to do for 2 months: bring 16-year-old Latania Janell Carwell home.

"God you know where she is, even though we don't know where she is. Lord give us direction. [...] Give us the gumption so we can bring some closure to this situation and most importantly bring some dignity to this young ladies life," said Pastor Christopher J Waters.

The Richmond County Sheriff's office is allowing community pastor Angela Harden to search the areas law enforcement has already been over while law enforcement goes over leads from yesterdays search.

"We want to find Janell. We are that village," said Pastor Harden.

Janell wouldn't recognize some of her searchers, but they see her in the ones they love.

"When I look at my daughter I see this girl and so it has really hurt me you know knowing this could be my child you now," said Heather.

Community searchers did find some things today.

They were instructed to take pictures and send it only to investigators and to not post on social media.

Searchers tell me investigators came out and picked up some of the evidence.

Janell Carwell's mother, Tanya Tripp, has a bond hearing tomorrow morning.

Wednesday June 14, 2017

7:25 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Investigators came up short of finding 16-year-old Janell Carwell's remains at either search location, but Sheriff Richard Roundtree says crews are processing evidence from the Tate road area and the Regency Mall.

Phase 1 and 2 of Wednesdays search for Janell's remains centered around her Tate road home and the Regency Mall.

Sheriff Roundtree says investigators already believe the evidence found on Tate road is pertinent to the investigation.

Sheriff Roundtree says searchers are focusing on Tate road and Regency Mall because the cell phones belonging to Tanya Tripp, Leon Tripp and Janell Carwell were pinged multiple times in those areas.

Crews are searching the 3-4 mile radius of those pings.

Sheriff Roundtree told reporters investigators can confirm Janell Carwell was last seen at midnight at her home April 17, 2017.

Roundtree also confirms the investigation into Janell Carwell's disappearance is specifically a murder investigation, but the sheriff is still not opening up about the interview on Friday that changed the course of the investigation.

According to the Sheriff, Leon Tripp and Tanya Tripp have lawyers.

Sheriff Roundtree says investigators were originally misled by Janell's mother Tanya Tripp and they haven't been able to find evidence to support the theory that Janell was ever in Atlanta.

"The information that originally started this case back on the 17th was given to us by a person that we now feel is not credible. So, almost all of the information that we were originally given we have to go back and reevaluate," said Roundtree.

News 12 NBC 26 asked what happens to the charges against Leon and Tanya Tripp if investigators never find Janell's remains.

"Not ruling out anything, we have successfully prosecuted in Richmond County without the discovery of a body. We are not there yet but again that's you have to do all these things because that may be a likely outcome. We have to plan for all cases, all scenarios to move forward again with a successful prosecution," said Roundtree.

Sheriff Roundtree also says investigators are avoiding interviewing her younger sister.

"Even though this is a criminal case it's still a human case. You are talking about a 7-year-old child that knows her sister is missing, her mother is incarcerated. Her world has been turned upside down. We Will do everything to avoid the additional trauma that we know she's going through," said Roundtree.

A spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office says this is the second time investigators have searched Janell's former home on Tate road.

Investigators say the first time they were looking for clues as to where Janell and her step-dad Leon Tripp might be.

"You're looking for any possessions they may have taken with them. Any money they may have taken big account stuff like that," said Lt. Allan Rollins.

A new interview last Friday has investigators searching for evidence that leads to her remains.

New forensic evidence led them back to Tate road.

"Technology has helped us we have science that's helped us so we have more information. We also have some information from the community," said Lt. Rollins.

More than 50 law enforcement officials from the Sheriffs Office to the Districts Attorneys office spent the morning phase of the search going door to door and searching in wooded areas nearby.

There were others in the home before investigators combed through.
Her mother Tanya Tripp was living in the home for over a month after her daughters disappearance. Investigators say Tripp was evicted in late May. We showed you footage of her front yard after a bank hired workers to gut the home. The next day investigators searched through it for the first time.

"We're not gonna stop until they find her," said Lt. Rollins.



10:29 a.m.
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A multi-agency search for the body of missing 16-year-old Latania Janell Carwell near the Terrace Manor area has turned up nothing so far.

Richmond County Sheriff's Office investigators tell News 12 NBC 26 that they are going to move to a different location to continue their search, but would not disclose where that location is.



9:30 a.m.
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Over 50 officials from different law enforcement agencies began their search Wednesday morning for the body of missing 16-year-old Latania Janell Carwell.

Searchers from Richmond County Sheriffs Office, Richmond County Board of Education Public Safety Office, Richmond County Fire Dept., Georgia State Patrol, Georgia DNR, Augusta Districts Attorney's Office and Gold Cross Ambulance are canvassing the area closest to Janell Carwell's home on Tate Rd.

A sheriffs office spokesman says searchers will look in yards, wood lines, sheds and inoperable vehicles.

Searchers will also speak to people who live in the area to generate leads and search in neighbors property as well.

A Richmond County Sheriffs Office says searchers are looking for any unclaimed or abandoned clothing, remains, unmarked or shallow grave sites, recently disturbed soil, storage buildings, or inoperable vehicles where Carwells remains could be hidden.

Richmond County Sheriffs office spokesman says this area is the starting point for the canvass and search.

The spokesman says investigators are confident, adding forensic evidence led them to believe her neighborhood was a good place to start searching.

Investigators say the search will be expanded if needed.



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Richmond County Sheriff's Office and other local agencies will be doing a door-to-door survey of the Tate Road area for information or clues on the location on Janell Carwell.

According to the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, the deputies will search the surrounding areas by foot and by helicopter.

The Sheriff's Office stated that the operation is for law enforcement personnel only and does not involve volunteer groups at this time.

The staging area for the operation will be at a nearby school and will start at 8 a.m. Wednesday.



Monday, June 12, 2017

11:45 p.m.
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The search for a missing teen turns into a homicide investigation as the Richmond County Sheriff says they believe 16-year-old Latania Janell Carwell is dead.

Carwell went missing April 17th after she and her father reportedly went to help a friend with a car issue, but she hasn't been seen since. The following month, both her step-father and mother were arrested in connection to her disappearance.

Earlier this month, District Attorney Natalie Paine said Carwell was presumed dead or unable to communicate based on phone activity. The Sheriff took that a step further Monday, saying their focus now is finding her remains.

He also spoke about how a social media frenzy and rumors have ended up hurting more than helping in this case. "We urge the public to refrain from posting false, assumed or rumored social media reports as it relates to this investigation," Sheriff Roundtree says, "because it risks us having to divert valuable resources away from our primary investigation. If you don't hear directly from us, then wait before reacting and passing that information along. "

He took time talking about the rumors that lead to Friday night's frenzy on Milledgeville Road and Golden Camp Road. Dozens of concerned people streamed on Facebook Live saying Carwell's body had been found. Search teams found the remains of a dead tortoise inside a toolbox.

"The assumptions thereof, it does cause problems because we can't stop an investigation to answer those rumors and accusations," Sheriff Roundtree saID. "It's kind of hard to put the genie back in the bottle. We want this case publicized on social media, but there is no need to come up with falsehoods."

Monique Braswell, a family friend close to the investigation, says in this case, speculation on social media outweighed the facts that night.

"Of course, you know, they had a million rumors," Braswell says. "Everybody's a detective, you know. Everybody has their own conspiracy theories."

She says the social media storm of rumors and speculation has spread to several "Find Latania Janell Carwell" Facebook pages in recent weeks. She was the administrator for one pages until their pages were hit with constant rumors, so she decided to take it down.

"There was just too much negativity," Braswell says. "It was too much. Everybody's a cop. Everybody is a lawyer. Everybody's a doctor. Everybody's a coroner. It was just too much, and it was really beginning to be a major problem, so I'm really glad that those pages have come down."

She says her focus has now turned from online posts to looking for real answers as the case continues to drag on with few answers.

"It's sad that we had to get closure this way," Braswell says, "but now the main focus is on being able to find this baby wherever she may be and just give straight closure to the community, to the family."

Braswell says the family was shaken by those Facebook Live posts Friday night and by those claiming Carwell's body had been found. She also says every "Find Latania" page was started as a way to spread hope to the family and get information about the case, but had become too much for them to handle.



7:18 p.m.
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The community continues to pray for answers in the disappearance of Janell Carwell, but Monday the community didn't get the closure they expected from Sheriff Richard Roundtree.

The Richmond County Sheriffs Office confirmed the investigation into Janell Carwell's disappearance is now a homicide investigation during a news conference Monday.

Sources close to the investigation tell News 12 NBC 26 search warrants have been signed allowing investigators to search through electronic data, including cell phone records, pings, emails and text messages.

"We no longer consider this a missing persons investigation, but we are now conducting an active homicide investigation," said Sheriff Roundtree.

The sheriff told a room full of reporters investigators are shifting their focus from finding the teen alive to finding the 16-year-old T.W. Josey student's remains.

"We will be conducting additional searches, interviews and follow ups this week until we are able to recover Ms. Carwells body and lay her to rest," said Roundtree.

One week ago District Attorney Natalie Paine told a judge the state presumed Janell "either dead or unable to communicate."

Since then Sheriff Roundtree says they've gotten new information leading them to believe this is a murder investigation.

"After conducting interviews Friday with the subject connected to this investigation we no longer consider this a missing persons investigation but we are now conducting an active homicide investigation," said Sheriff Roundtree.

Sheriff Roundtree couldn't reveal much else in the media conference.

When asked if Janell ever left Augusta he stopped short.

"I can't comment on that," said Roundtree.

Same when asked if Tanya and Leon Tripp, who are now behind bars, were cooperating.

"I can't comment on that," said Roundtree.

Roundtree did say they are confident they will find Janell's body this week.

"The Metro-Atlanta team came out this weekend and they'll be out again this week conducting additional searches based on the forensic evidence we've gathered. We have not yet found the place where the particular remains are," said Roundtree.

The Sheriff says he believes there are people in the community who know more.

He's asking anyone with information leading to her body to call the Richmond County Sheriff office.

Rountree said he is opening himself up to take calls directly.



10:00 a.m..
RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- In a news conference Monday, Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree updated the media that investigators are no longer looking for a missing person in the Janell Carwell case.


Sheriff Roundtree stated that the primary focus for investigators starting this week is to look for the remains of Carwell so her body can be laid to rest.

"We feel confident that we have the person or persons responsible for Ms. Carwell's disappearance in custody, and now our primary focus is the recovery of her body," Sheriff Roundtree stated.

The Sheriff's Office is asking the public to continue to provide them with information that may help them discover Janell Carwell's remains, however the Sheriff states those who pass off false information will be charged.


Sheriff Roundtree also had a stern warning for the public in regards to posting false or rumored information on social media.

"They [rumored posts] risk us from having to divert valuable resources away from our primary investigation," the Sheriff said.

If you have any information that may aid the Sheriff's Office in their investigation, call the Richmond County Sheriff's Office at (706) 821-1020 or (706) 821-1080.

Carwell was last seen on April 17 at around 1:30 a.m. from her home on Tate Rd.

Her stepfather, Leon Tripp, and her mother, Tanya Tripp have been arrested in connection to her disappearance.



Sunday, June 11, 2017

RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The Richmond County Sheriff's Office will hold a news conference on Monday, June 12 in regards to the disappearance of 16-year-old Latania Janell Carwell.

According to a news release, Sheriff Richard Roundtree will hold the new conference at 10 a.m. in the Law Enforcement Center.

Carwell was last seen on April 17 at around 1:30 a.m. from her home on Tate Rd.

Her stepfather, Leon Tripp, and her mother, Tanya Tripp have been arrested in connection to her disappearance.



Monday, June 5, 2017

RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Even before her disappearance Janell Carwell was a mystery.

"She was always quiet. She wouldn't really talk unless she was your friend or something," said Thomas.

T.W. Josey Senior Jasmine Thomas is a friend.

"She used to wear red lipstick. She used to love her red lipstick," said Thomas.

Thomas says she and Janell sat next to each other on the bus and at lunch everyday, all school year.

"Every time we used to sit at the lunch table we used to always talk," said Thomas.

With the exception of the past 7 weeks.

"I stopped seeing her on the bus and everything," said Thomas.

Days turned into weeks of not seeing Janell.

"We thought she was going to be missing and then turn up , you get what I'm saying, like most teenage girls do down here in Augusta," said Thomas.

Soon weeks morphed into more than a month of twists and arrests no one was expecting.

"It's been [almost] two months and she's not coming back ," said Thomas.

"I hope they find her and I hope that she is somewhere safe because she doesn't deserve anything that we think she is going through," said Thomas.

Thomas and her friends are going over everything Janell ever told them, like when she told the girls she was moving to go live with her father.

"She told us her mom and her dad were still together, she told me she was moving with her daddy , that's all she told us that were sitting at the table," said Thomas.

It's all she can think of that might lead to where Janell is.

"She's 16-years-old. Shouldn't be a reason why she can't call and say I'm OK, you know, I'm OK. I'm not ready to tell you what fully happened but I just want to let ya'll know that I love ya'll and I'm OK. There shouldn't be any reason she can't call and let someone know that," said Thomas.

6:54 p.m.
RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- In an orange jumpsuit, unable to hide his face, accused kidnapper Leon Lamar Tripp stands in front of a judge with nothing to say, except "I would like to remain silent."

Augusta District Attorney Natalie Paine was in the courtroom.

"It is the state's belief that Ms. Carwell, the victim in this case Janell, is either dead or something has happened to her to prevent her from making contact with her family members, based on phone records and other information."

In a plea for the judge not to grant Tripp bond District Attorney Paine talked about the state's investigation and conversations with both Tripp and Janell's mother, Tanya Tripp.

"There were conflicting stories given by both Mr. Tripp and his wife, who is the mother of Janell. There statements are in conflict although they do seem to be working in concert," said Paine.

The DA told the judge the two were captured by U.S. Marshals together, returning a U-Haul in Atlanta.

"Mr. Tripp was able to evade capture by the US Marshals for at least 3 weeks. We were actively pursuing Mr. Tripp once warrants were released for kidnapping," said Paine.

District Attorney Paine also mentioned Tripp's past criminal history, saying the state believes Tripp is a flight risk, a danger to the community and potentially a danger to influence witnesses.

"I should mention in 2015 he was released on an aggravated stalking charge as well as cruelty to children. He met Mrs.Tripp while he was in prison , reached out to her, and they got married while he was in prison. At which point when he was released from prison in 2015 he came back to Augusta area to move in with Mrs. Tripp and her daughters," said Paine.

2:58 p.m.
RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- District Attorney Natalie Paine said in a bond hearing today for Leon Tripp that Latania Janell Carwell is either presumed dead or unable to communicate, based on phone records.

Bond was denied for Tripp on Monday, he is currently facing kidnapping charges.


Carwell has been missing for more than a month. News 12 NBC 26 was in the courtroom. Tripp told the court that he wished to remain silent.


His wife and the girl's mother, Tanya Tripp, is also in the Richmond County Jail accused of interfering with the apprehension of a criminal.

This is a developing story, stay tuned for updates.



10:34 a.m.
RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Leon Tripp will make a first appearance in a Richmond County Magistrate Court on Monday.

Tripp will be on the docket at 2 p.m. at the jail on Phinizy Road. News 12 NBC 26 will be in the courtroom.

Tripp is facing kidnapping charges. His stepdaughter, Latania Janell Carwell has been missing for more than a month.

His wife and the girl's mother, Tanya Tripp, is also in the Richmond County Jail accused of interfering with the apprehension of a criminal.



Saturday, June 3, 2017

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RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Leon Tripp is now in the Richmond County Jail after being released from the Fulton County Jail. Tripp is facing kidnapping charges.

Tripp's stepdaughter, Latania Janell Carwell has been missing for more than a month.

His wife and the girl's mother, Tanya Tripp, is also in the Richmond County Jail accused of interfering with the apprehension of a criminal.



Friday, June 2, 2017

RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Leon Tripp has been released from Fulton County Jail and is en route to Richmond County Jail.

The stepfather of a missing Augusta teenager had a probation hearing scheduled in an Atlanta courtroom Thursday morning, but his lawyer waived his right to appear.

Superior Court Judge Karen Woodson said Tripp may eventually have to come back to Fulton County for his probation hearing. He was on parole in Fulton County for a 2009 charge of aggravated stalking.

Tripp's stepdaughter, Latania Janell Carwell has been missing for more than a month. His wife and the girl's mother, Tanya Tripp, is in custody in Richmond County accused of interfering with the apprehension of a criminal.



Thursday, June 1, 2017

11:00 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Family member of missing teen Janell Carwell saw some red flags before the mother, Tonya Tripp, and stepfather Leon Tripp were even arrested.

It's been more than a month since the teen went missing with her stepfather. Roshaunda Carr is Tonya Tripp's cousin. She said she was shocked to even find out about the disappearance of Janell, but was thrown for a bigger loop when Tonya was arrested.

Carr said she was in contact with Tonya the entire time.
"I would call her everyday, check on her, send her text messages. You know, I would call her and pray with her," Carr said.

Carr said now looking back on those talks, she noticed a change that she didn't think much of until now.

"At first it was 'I want my husband, I want my daughter to come home,' and then gradually it went to nothing about her husband, and everything was focused on Janell," Carr said.

Carr said Tonya stopped talking about Leon Tripp all together two weeks before her husband was arrested.

"It did throw a red flag, only because she had been so consistent about talking about him every conversation that we had," Carr said.

A week after that, Carr said Tonya ended their daily conversations and stopped talking to her completely.

"Everything that happened as it did, I basically put the pieces of the puzzle together myself," Carr said, "My main focus right now is getting Janell home:43



7:00 p.m.

ATLANTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The face of 16-year-old Janell Carwell stares silently over the hum of Atlanta traffic.

The 16-year-old Josey student went missing from her home in Augusta on April 17th , but her accused kidnapper Leon Tripp sits in a Fulton County jail waiting for investigators to deliver him to another jail cell in Richmond County.

Tripp was spotted at at the Stop 'n' Shop in Historic West Atlanta.
The store is not too far from where her billboard sits.

"What had concerned us in the case was that Leon was spotted on Lee St. which is near the bus station and for a lot of people that know sex trafficking and stuff like that know prostitution, pimps bus stations are a hub for them so to speak," said Atlanta Pastor Lakiesha Thomas.

Atlanta Pastor Lakiesha Thomas's been a part of the search for Janell here in Atlanta.

"They reached out to me because my church does a lot with victims of sex trafficking, missing persons, prostitution. We work with an organization called 'For Sarah'," said Thomas.

Pastor Thomas says she spoke to Janell's mother days before her arrest.

"What was interesting to me was that about 6 days prior to her being arrested she reached out to me to ask me if I had heard anything in regards to the case and I thought that was very interesting because it appears that she was already with Leon in the county at the time," said Thomas.

In less than 24 hours both step-dad Leon Tripp and biological mother Tanya Tripp will be back in Augusta.

The only sign of Janell sits hanging here.

Bring Our Missing Home Inc. says soon another billboard will hang in Augusta on Deans Bridge Rd. It should be up by Friday Afternoon.


The stepfather of a missing Augusta teenager had a probation hearing scheduled in an Atlanta courtroom Thursday morning, but his lawyer waived his right to appear.

Instead, it was just his lawyer in the courtroom, and it was a quick hearing. The hearing lasted less than five minutes. News 12 NBC 26 has learned that his attorney does not want him on camera right now.


The next step will have Leon Tripp transferred back to Richmond County to face the kidnapping charges, jail officials say Richmond County has 24 hours to pick him up.

Superior Court Judge Karen Woodson said Tripp may eventually have to come back to Fulton County for his probation hearing.

Tripp's stepdaughter, Latania Janell Carwell has been missing for more than a month. His wife and the girl's mother, Tanya Tripp, is in custody in Richmond County accused of interfering with the apprehension of a criminal.



Friday, May 26, 2017

6:37 p.m.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Some parents say Tanya Tripp's story is not adding up. Ebony Harvey said she felt bad for Tripp in the beginning, but now she is confused.

"It just made no sense. None of it made any sense. It's a school night, 16-year-old going out with step dad. My kids don't leave with my husband, I don't care what time of the day it is, especially not 1:30 a.m." said Harvey.

Now both Leon and Tanya Tripp are behind bars. Leon is facing kidnapping charges, Tanya is charged with hindering his arrest.

"I was honestly relieved when they were arrested but still frustrated because we still don't know where the girl is, there is no trace of the girl" said Harvey.

LaTania Janell Carwell's missing poster has been shared across the nation. There is a $1,000 reward for information leading to her.



8:20 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- One of two parents of a missing 16-year-old is now in the Richmond County jail.

Tanya Faye Tripp, 35, is facing charges of hindering the apprehension or punishment of a criminal.

Leon Lamar Tripp was last being held in DeKalb County Jail. We've confirmed that he has been moved to Fulton County. It is currently unclear when he will be returned to Richmond County.

Tanya Tripp and stepfather Leon Lamar Tripp are both facing charges after the disappearance of Latania Janell Carwell.

Investigators say they're still continuing to search for the teenager, but there is no word on where she might be. Anyone with any information can call the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

11:00 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A parent at Josey High School is matching the $500 reward Latania Janell Carwell's uncle put up for information in the case of his missing niece. The reward is now up to $1,000.

More questions continue to arise since the 16-year-old went missing almost two month ago.

"Is she safe? Is she hurt? Is she alive?," Pastor Angela Harden said.

Pastor Angela Harden has been in contact with the mother, Tonya Tripp, since Janell Carwell went missing. Harden held a prayer vigil for the teen earlier this month.

"I know a lot of people are concerned, and they want to know, the community wants to know," Harden said.

Tripp was arrested yesterday, not even 24 hours after deputies arrested her husband, Leon Tripp, who was charged in the disappearance of Janell.

"My heart just goes out to think your step-dad and your mom has been arrested, but where is she?," Harden said.

As more days go by, more and more people share her picture on social media. More people have joined the almost 600 members already in the Facebook group, Help Find Latania Carwell.

But everyone is still asking the same question.

"We want to know where is she," Harden said.


7:24 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A parent at Josey High School is matching the $500 reward Latania Janell Carwell's uncle put up for information in the case of his missing niece. The reward is now up to $1,000.

Investigators are combing through piles of stuff left outside the home of a woman whose daughter has been missing for more than a month.

The missing 16-year-old's mother and stepfather are both facing charges after her disappearance.

Janell Carwell's mother Tonya Tripp is behind bars in the Atlanta City Detention Center and investigators are treating her home as criminal evidence.

Just three weeks ago Tonya Tripp, the mother of missing 16-year-old Janell Carwell , told us this :

"This man is not going to hurt them," said Tripp.

Now, Investigators are charging the mother with hindering the apprehension of a felon.

Investigators say she was communicating and trying to meet up with the man deputies hold responsible for her daughters disappearance.

"This is the only dad they've ever known," said Tripp told us May 2, 2017.

Wednesday afternoon the Richmond County Crime Scene Unit came to Tonya Tripp's former home to search for evidence.

A hard job since eviction crews already gutted the home days before.

Pastor Angela Harden, who says she was helping Tripp rally the community to search for the 16-year-old, tells us she's heartbroken at the news that her mom could be involved.

"I'm heartbroken that Tonya Tripp that her mother is involved in any kind of way. That's really heartbreaking. This case needs a lot of prayer for the teenager," said Tripp.

Their biggest prayer of all: that she's alive.

Harden tells us Janell Carwell's 7-year-old sister was there when investigators arrested her mother.

Harden tells us the 7-year-old is with a family friend.

5:13 p.m.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Officials at the Atlanta City Detention Center have said Tanya Tripp is in custody at their facility.

Deputies arrested Leon Tripp in Dekalb County earlier Tuesday afternoon on kidnapping charges while Tanya Tripp, Carwell's mother, was arrested just a few hours later and charged with hindering the apprehension of a criminal. The Richmond County Sheriff's Office and District Attorney's Office confirmed the teenager was not found with either parent.

Neighbors say Tanya Tripp was evicted from her home Augusta home. Investigators were at her home Wednesday afternoon with the Marshal's Office.

Investigators say they're still continuing to search for the teenager, but there is no word on where she might be. Anyone with any information can call the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

2 p.m.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Crime investigators have arrived on scene of the home of Tanya Tripp, on the 3100 block of Tate Road, to search it.

Deputies arrested Leon Tripp in Dekalb County earlier Tuesday afternoon on kidnapping charges while Tanya Tripp, Carwell's mother, was arrested just a few hours later and charged with hindering the apprehension of a criminal. The Richmond County Sheriff's Office and District Attorney's Office confirmed the teenager was not found with either parent.

Neighbors say Tanya Tripp was evicted from the home.

Investigators say they're still continuing to search for the teenager, but there is no word on where she might be. Anyone with any information can call the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

1:06 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The home of Tanya Tripp on the 3100 block of Tate Road is set to be searched by CID investigators on Wednesday.


According to our reporter on the scene, people were digging through stuff at the home. A scrapbook of childhood pictures was left behind.

The Marshal's Office has arrived on scene but cannot start their investigation until CID arrives.

Deputies arrested Leon Tripp in Dekalb County earlier Tuesday afternoon on kidnapping charges while Tanya Tripp, Carwell's mother, was arrested just a few hours later and charged with hindering the apprehension of a criminal. The Richmond County Sheriff's Office and District Attorney's Office confirmed the teenager was not found with either parent.

Neighbors say Tanya Tripp was evicted from the home.

Investigators say they're still continuing to search for the teenager, but there is no word on where she might be. Anyone with any information can call the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

11:45 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The case of a missing 16-year-old from Augusta has taken another turn. Latania Janell Carwell's mother and stepfather are now behind bars while she is nowhere to be found.

Deputies arrested Leon Tripp in Dekalb County earlier Tuesday afternoon on kidnapping charges while Tanya Tripp, Carwell's mother, was arrested just a few hours later and charged with hindering the apprehension of a criminal. The Richmond County Sheriff's Office and District Attorney's Office confirmed the teenager was not found with either parent.

Investigators say Tanya Tripp was not only in contact with her husband, but had recently moved out of her Augusta home to be with him in Atlanta. Tripp's home was found empty while chairs, televisions and mattresses littered her front yard after neighbors say she was evicted Monday morning.

After nearly a month of searching, half of the puzzle is now solved as Leon Tripp sits behind bars in police custody. He's facing kidnapping charges on an arrest warrant from Richmond County while also facing probation violations for an aggravated stalking charge out of Fulton County.

Latania's mother Tanya Tripp sat down with News 12 NBC 26 when the investigation back on April 28 to talk about the day her husband and daughter went missing.

"I said, 'I love y'all. Let me know when you're on your way back.' And I said so I don't worry because you know how I get," Tripp said. "I heard her say, 'I love you mommy.' It's just, it's killing me because I want them home so bad."

But now she's also now behind bars.

The Richmond County Sheriff's Office confirmed Tripp was arrested Tuesday night on charges for hindering the apprehension of a criminal. Investigators say she was not only in contact with Leon but had moved to Atlanta to be with him.

The entire time, Tanya defended her husband. She sat down with News 12 NBC 26 again on May 7 at a prayer vigil for Latania and said her husband was not the kind of man to kidnap their daughter.

"She just went with her dad to help him find this dude," Tripp said. "Even though the investigators are saying there's not no truth to any of that stuff, I believe it is. And when they come home, they're going to tell that, too."

But now there's no house for both Tripps and their daughter to come home to after neighbors say she was evicted from her Augusta home. While the search continues, Carwell's uncle Charles Carwell says the arrest brings a sigh of relief.

"You know, you feel the justice half of it has finally caught up," Carwell says. "So it's like yeah, we got him and the very next thing that runs through your mind is what about Latania?"

It's that realization that's keeping Charles and other family members to stay strong for their little girl.

"You keep the faith, you keep praying," Carwell says. "This is a step. You keep praying on it and hopefully, we can build on it and bring her home."

Investigators say they're still continuing to search for the teenager, but there is no word on where she might be. Anyone with any information can call the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.



8:55 p.m.
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- No sign of a missing 16-year-old yet, but new details in the case are painting a complicated picture.

Investigators have learned Tanya Faye Tripp, Latania Carwell's mother, was in contact with Leon Tripp, the girl's stepfather. They say she had recently moved from her residence in Augusta to the metro Atlanta area to be with Leon Tripp.

RCSO investigators along with the Atlanta Police Department were able to locate Tanya Tripp and she has been arrested for Hindering the Apprehension of a Criminal.



6:47 p.m.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The man accused of kidnapping his 16-year-old stepdaughter now behind bars deputies arrested Leon Tripp in DeKalb county, where he's facing felony kidnapping charges.

It's been weeks of nothing.

Investigators have the stepdad in custody now, but still, have no idea where his 16-year-old stepdaughter might be.

After more than a month of searching, investigators have solved at least half the puzzle surrounding the disappearance of 16-year-old Josey student, Latania Janell Carwell.

Latania, who goes by Janell, is still nowhere to be found.

But her stepdad who her mother claims Janell left with at 1:30 in the morning is now in custody booked into the DeKalb County jail on kidnapping charges.

"I hope they find her and I hope they find her in good shape and can bring her back to her mother. That's what I hope. That's what I pray for everyday," said neighbor Thales Elliot.

Janell likely will not come back here.

The family's neighbor of three years, Thales Elliot, says early Monday morning the mother was evicted from her home.

"I was very sad. I couldn't believe that. I couldn't believe that," said Elliot.

Televisions, mattresses, and clothes lay abandoned, littering the yard where Janell was last seen.

"I fear the worst because it's been too long since anybody seen her or heard from her," said Elliot.

As investigators get closer to an answer family and close friends hope things aren't as they appear.



6:18 p.m.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The district attorney's office has confirmed Leon Lamar Tripp was arrested on kidnapping charges out of Richmond County.

Tripp is accused of violating probation for an aggravated assault charge out of Fulton County from either 2009 or 2010, according to the DA's office.

Leon Lamar Tripp, 38, is in jail on a felony aggravated stalking charge. He was booked into the DeKalb County jail on Tuesday.

Leon Tripp told his wife he was with her daughter, Latania Janell Carwell, and that they were going to help his friend "Maurice" with a broken down vehicle. That was the last time Tanya Tripp heard from her husband and her daughter.

We are still unsure of the whereabouts of Latania Janell Carwell. She was last seen with Tripp on Monday, April 17 around 1:30 a.m. on the 3100 block of Tate Road. It is unknown what clothing Carwell had on at the time that they left the residence.



1 p.m.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The stepdad who went missing with his 16-year-old stepdaughter nearly a month ago has been arrested.

Leon Lamar Tripp, 38, is in jail on a felony aggravated stalking charge. He was booked into the DeKalb County jail on Tuesday.

We are still unsure of the whereabouts of Latania Janell Carwell. She was last seen with Tripp on Monday, April 17 around 1:30 a.m. on the 3100 block of Tate Road. It is unknown what clothing Carwell had on at the time that they left the residence.

Leon Tripp told his wife he was with Latania and that they were going to help his friend "Maurice" with a broken down vehicle. That was the last time Tanya Tripp heard from her husband and her daughter.

Leon Tripp was seen on April 21 at the Stop N' Shop Grocery located at 785 Lee Street SW Atlanta, Ga., but Latania was not with him then either.

If you have any information on Carwell, please contact Investigator Daniel Madden or Sgt. Tim Owen at the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office at (706) 821-1020 or (706) 821-1080.



Sunday, May 7, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Monday marks three weeks since Tanya Tripp's 16-year-old daughter and her husband went missing. Tripp said she hasn't stopped praying.

"It gives me hope. It gives me strength, and I know that God is able," Tripp said. "I know he is going to bring my baby home. I just have faith in that."

The Great Young Zion Baptist Church came together on Sunday to hold a prayer vigil for Tripp and to pray for her daughter Latonia Janell Carwell, and her husband Leon Tripp to come home.

Tripp said she wishes her daughter could see how many people came together at the church for her.

"She would love it. She would love it, and when she gets home and sees this she is going to awe," Tripp said.

Investigators issued an arrest warrant earlier this week for her husband on kidnapping charges after deputies said someone spotted him in the Atlanta area without Janell.

Tripp said she is certain this is not a kidnapping.

"She just went with her dad to go help him find this dude. Even though the investigators say there is no truth in that, but I believe it is and when they come home they are going to tell that too," Tripp said.

Tripp said she hopes that day comes sooner than later.

"I know she's scared. She's scared because I know I would be if I was in that situation, not having my mom around, I would be scared out of my mind," Tripp said.



News 12 NBC 26 at 6' O Clock / Tuesday, May 2, 2017

AUGUSTA,Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- With every passing day Tanya Tripp's worry grows.

"It's getting harder and harder for me," said Tanya Tripp.

"It's not the same, because I am so used to hearing my daughter," said Tripp.

Tripp's 16-year-old daughter Latonia Janell Carwell and her stepfather Leon Lamar Tripp have been missing for more than two weeks.

"It's been 15 days now. Too long. Too long," said Tripp.

For most of that time investigators said both were missing.

"It's such an emotional roller coaster," said Tripp.

Deputies say after a bystander spotted the stepfather, Leon Tripp, in Atlanta by the Stop'N'Shop on Lee Street, alone, investigators issued the arrest warrant for Tripp on kidnapping charges.

Investigators say the bystander positively identified the cross tattoo in the middle of Tripp's forehead.

"When I heard the charges I'm like 'wow really?' Because this is her dad. I said this is her dad. Both of my kids. This is the only dad they've ever known," said Tripp.

Mrs. Tripp says she still does not believe her husband, her daughter's stepfather, would kidnap Janell.

"This is the man they love. This man is not going to hurt them," said Tripp.

Still, Mrs.Tripp knows she doesn't have all the answers.

The white GMC truck she heard crank up the night Janell and her husband disappeared is back in her carport serving as a blaring reminder of the questions she has for her daughter if she gets back home.

"I'm going to give her the biggest hug ever. Ask her is she ok? Was she harmed? Was she touched? What happened?"

"When my daughter is found she will tell the truth. I have no doubt in my mind that my husband is innocent in all this," said Tripp.


Monday, May 1, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Kidnapping warrants have been issued for a stepfather that has been missing for two weeks with his 16-year-old stepdaughter.

The Richmond County Sheriff's Office has said they received information that Leon Lamar Tripp was seen in Atlanta.

The family of Latania Janell Carwell has offered a $500 reward for anyone with any information leading to Carwell and her stepfather, Leon Lamar Tripp.

The last time both Carwell and Tripp spoke to her mother, Tanya Tripp, was April 17 over the phone.

Leon Tripp told his wife he was with Latonia and that they were going to help his friend "Maurice" with a broken down vehicle.

Leon Tripp was seen on April 21, 2017 at the Stop N' Shop Grocery located at 785 Lee Street SW Atlanta, Ga., but Latania Carwell was not with him. It is unknown what clothing Carwell and Tripp had on at the time that they left the residence.

Information that has been gathered so far suggests that Carwell and Tripp are possibly in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

If you have any information on Carwell and/or Tripp please contact Investigator Daniel Madden or Sgt. Tim Owen at the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office at (706) 821-1020 or (706) 821-1080.


News 12 NBC 26 / Friday, April 28, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A 16-year-old Augusta girl and her step-father have been missing for two weeks.

The family of Latania Janell Carwell is offering a $500 reward for anyone with any information leading to Carwell and her step-father, Leon Lamar Tripp.

Richmond County Sheriff's Office investigators say they are following leads.

Investigators say it's possible they are still in Augusta, because deputies found the car he was driving not even a mile away from their home.

Investigators say it is also possible they are in Atlanta, as they have ties to the area.

The last time both Carwell and Tripp spoke to her mother, Tanya Tripp, was April 17 over the phone.

Leon Tripp told his wife he was with Latania and that they were going to help his friend "Maurice" with a broken down vehicle.


News 12 NBC 26 / Wednesday, April 26, 2017

(WRDW/WAGT) -- Tanya Tripp is praying her 16 year-old Latonia Janell Carwell will walk through the door any minute.

"Anything. Any kind of leads. I'll take anything," said Tripp.

Tripp's 16 year-old daughter and the girls step dad Leon Tripp have both been missing for more than a week.

They disappeared on Carwell's 16th birthday in the middle of the night.

"I heard the truck crank up and I heard the backdoor slam. I said what in the world is this man doing," said Tripp.

Tripp says she quickly called her husband.

"He immediately answered and he said babe I'm sorry. I know what you are fixing to say. I have Janell. I said oh thank God," said Tripp.

Leon told her he was taking Janell to help him fix a man named "Maurice's" car in Clarks Hill, Ga.

"I said I love y'all. Let me know when y'all are on your way back. I said I'm worried. You know how I get. He said, OK babe. I heard her say I love you, mommy," said Tripp.

It was the last time she would speak to them.

"It's killing me, because I want them home so bad," said Tripp.

Investigators found the 1990 GMC Sierra pickup truck Leon was driving. Tripp says it was spotted close to their home.

She says despite how it looks she doesn't think her husband intentionally left with her daughter.

"I don't believe that. I know in my heart it's not that at all," said Tripp.

She also knows in her heart something bad has happened.

She's waiting anxiously next to the door, phone in hand, to find out.

"Doesn't matter what time you call me. I'm going to answer," said Tripp.

Janell's mom says her stepdad does have a criminal past. She says he spent some time in prison.

News 12 NBC 26 found Leon Lamar Tripp has past charges of aggravated stalking and theft by taking in Fulton County from 2009.

Under the same name and date of birth we found a charge in Dekalb County of driving with a suspended license.

Richmond County Sheriff's Office Investigators tell us they are following leads.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The search continues for a girl and her stepfather who went missing last week.

Latania Janell Carwell, 16, and Leon Lamar Tripp, 38, were last seen on Monday, April 17 around 1:30 a.m. at the 3100 block of Tate Road.

Investigators are currently following leads, and they have recovered the 1990 GMC Sierra pickup truck they were believed to be in.

Carwell is described as 5 feet 4 inches tall and 160 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. Tripp is described as 5 feet 11 inches tall and 202 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. They were previously believed to have been in the Atlanta area.

Richmond County Sheriff's Office investigators are planning to release more information later today, we'll update this story when we receive that information.

If you have any information on their whereabouts, call the Richmond County Sheriff's Office at (706) 821-1020 or (706) 821-1080.



Friday, April 21, 2017

RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Richmond County Sheriff's Office investigators are looking for a girl and her stepfather who are missing.

Latania Janell Carwell, 16, and Leon Lamar Tripp, 38, were last seen on Monday around 1:30 a.m. at the 3100 block of Tate Road.

Carwell is described as 5 feet 4 inches tall and 160 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. Tripp is described as 5 feet 11 inches tall and 202 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. They're believed to be in a 1990 GMC Sierra pickup truck, with Georgia tag # PYT6004.

It is unknown what clothing Carwell and Tripp had on at the time that they went missing. Information that has been gathered so far suggests that Carwell and Tripp are possibly in the Atlanta area.

If you have any information on Carwell and/or Tripp please contact the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office at (706) 821-1020 or (706) 821-1080.