Although African Americans make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population, we account for 37 percent of the missing in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s database under the age of 18 and 26 percent above the age of 18. Cases involving African Americans also tend to receive less media coverage than missing Whites, with missing men of color getting even less attention.
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The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office says the missing persons case of Georgia teen Latania Janell Carwell is now a homicide investigation.
“Our primary focus this week is recovering Miss Carwell’s remains,” Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree said at a press conference Monday, reports the Augusta Chronicle. “We had a search team in the metro Atlanta area come out this weekend and conducted multiple searches in the area, and we will be out again this week conducting additional searches based on forensic evidence that we gather in, but we have not yet located the particular area where we think the remains are.”
Roundtree said the change in the status of the case comes after the interview of a “subject connected to this investigation.” He did not divulge further details.
Carwell, 16, is believed to have left her home on April 17 with her stepfather Leon Lamar Tripp, just 90 minutes after she turned 16. Latania’s mother, Tanya Tripp, says she spoke with her husband, who explained he brought his stepdaughter with him to assist with a GPS system to help find a friend who had car trouble. Police said Tripp’s claim was untrue.
A kidnapping warrant was issued for Leon Tripp and he was captured and arrested by U.S. Marshals. He is being held on kidnapping charges. Tanya Tripp was also arrested on charges of hindering the apprehension of a criminal after she was found living with her husband in Atlanta.
Latania has not been seen in public since she left home with her stepfather in April.
Latania’s uncle Charles Carwell said the family is confounded by news the search is now a homicide.
“It’s been eight weeks and at this point we are looking for some closure. That’s not the news we wanted to hear but we want closure. We want to know more now. We need more. That’s partial closure,” Carwell told NewsOne in an interview.
Carwell now has custody of Tanya Tripp’s other child.
“I’ll have to explain this to her little sister one day,” Carwell said. “She was a young, innocent kid. She didn’t deserve this. No one deserves this under any circumstances.”
Now, Carwell said he wants Tripp and his sister to come clean so Latania can be properly put to rest.
“One of those two have to know something. That’s my opinion. Hopefully someone will say something. You’ll get what’s coming to you if you are involved,” Carwell said. “Right now we want closure to close it off in your heart and mind.”
Jeffery C. Mays is a contributing writer for NewsOne. Follow him on Twitter at @JeffCMays.