As a new school year begins today in Richmond County, a campaign is underway to make sure a former student missing since April is not forgotten.
Rocks for Janell gives those affected by the story of LaTania Janell Carwell the opportunity to decorate rocks with thoughtful messages and disperse them throughout the Augusta area. Community activist and radio talk show host Angela Harden said the campaign is another way to remember the 16-year-old, who authorities believe is dead after her mother Tanya Faye Tripp reported her missing in April.
“It’s just a another way to keep her alive and keep her name before the Lord and before the people,” she said.
The teen was reported last seen with her stepfather, Leon Lamar Tripp, 38, at their home in the 3100 block of Tate Road on April 17. The teen’s mother said her husband told her he was going to respond to a call from a friend whose car had broken down and asked the girl to accompany him.
Three weeks after the two left, her stepfather was found and arrested in Dekalb County (Ga.) on a charge of felony aggravated stalking. He was later taken to Richmond County on kidnapping charges.
Tonya Tripp was also arrested on a charge of hindering the apprehension of a criminal after deputies found she had moved from Augusta to be with Tripp.
With the new school year beginning Harden said the campaign will be expanded to T.W. Josey High School, where Carwell attended school. Harden said a display of the rocks and photos will be placed at the school to assure her former classmates and teachers that she is not forgotten.
“The bell will be ringing, but Janell won’t be there,” she said. “So that first day might be kind of rough with kids and teachers thinking about Janell, but if they see a display of Janell with the rocks and her picture I think that will be comforting.”
Harden said plans are also underway to place a billboard of the teen near the school and by Garrett’s Car Care on Deans Bridge Road where a prayer vigil is held for the teen each week.
“We want Janell home and we’re not giving up on where Janell is, ” she said. “The community deserves closure and Janell needs to be able to rest in peace, and until we find out where she is there will not be any peace.”
A $2,500 reward for more information that may lead to finding the teen’s remains is still active. Harden said after billboards are placed possible next steps include increasing the reward.
“Once we get these billboards up that might be something that we’ll look at to try to raise that to $5,000, but right now our focus is to get as many people as possible to place these rocks in our community,” she said.