It’s been one week since additional charges were added to the mother and stepfather arrested in the disappearance of LaTania Janell Carwell, and four months since the teenager stepped off a school bus and made her way up a hill to their Terrace Manor home on Tate Road.
Thales Elliot, a former neighbor of the 16-year-old, said the frequent drop-offs of students in the neighborhood since school began three weeks ago brings back memories of her.
“I miss them days waiting on her to see how she was doing,” Elliot, a disabled Army veteran, said Tuesday.
LaTania’s stepfather, Leon Lamar Tripp, is now charged with murder. The charge of concealing the death of another has been added to those of Tanya Faye Tripp, LaTania’s mother and Tripp’s wife. She had been charged with hindering the apprehension of a criminal since she and her husband were arrested in DeKalb County on May 24.
“They had to do something to make them talk,” Elliot said regarding the charges. “We have to find out what happened to her.”
Tanya Tripp had reported her husband and daughter missing on April 17, hours after he allegedly woke her and said he was taking the 16-year-old with him to go help a friend with car trouble.
While Tanya Tripp insisted to law enforcement she had had no contact with either her husband or daughter, phone records revealed numerous calls between her and Tripp between April 17 and May 24.
On June 11, Sheriff Richard Roundtree announced that the teen was believed to be dead based on a statement made by her stepfather. Searches had been conducted in the area of the family’s former home on Tate Road and elsewhere, but Carwell has not been found.
Earnestine Howard, whose mother lives near the 3103 Tate Road home where LaTania lived, said the now vacant home is a “daily reminder” of what use to be.
“It’s so unfortunate and still unbelievable,” Howard said.
Since the teen’s disappearance, radio talk show host and community activist Angela Harden has spearheaded efforts into finding LaTania and bringing awareness to her case.
A Friday fast and 7 p.m. prayer vigil is held each week for the teen, and a rocks campaign — which gives those affected by Carwell’s story the opportunity to decorate rocks with thoughtful messages and place them throughout the Augusta area — remains ongoing.
Harden said those efforts will continue until LaTania l is found.
“Janell is still missing,” she said. “We don’t know where she is and we still have to continue to bring awareness until that baby comes home.”