As billboards of missing Augusta teen LaTania Janell Carwell continue to pop up within the community, students at a local school have joined in on efforts to keep her story alive.
C.H. Terrell Academy students painted rocks for LaTania on Thursday afternoon as part of the Rocks for Janell campaign to decorate rocks with thoughtful messages to the teen and place them throughout the Augusta area.
John Jordan, 12, was one of the 20 students at Terrell who painted a rock for LaTania with hopes that the 16-year-old will soon be found.
“If she is alive that would be wonderful,” he said. “But if she is deceased she could at least have a good place to go.”
Rebecca Terrell-Dent, the school’s founder, said its participation furthers community efforts to bring awareness to the case. The campaign was launched by Angela Harden, a radio talk show host and community activist, in August.
“It is such a terrible tragedy,” Dent said. “But with these rocks we have that as a foundation to help, and we want to make the community know that they are aware of the things that are happening.”
Along with its participation in the campaign, the independent private Christian school launched a 21-day incentive to fast and pray for closure in the case. As part of the incentive each student committed to giving up something precious to them.
Jordan, who was in his fourth day of fasting, said he chose to give up soda and sweets.
“I miss my soda and sweets,” he said. “But I’m going to keep going until the 21 days are up because I know Janell is out there.”
Carwell went missing April 17. She was reported last seen with her stepfather, Leon Lamar Tripp, 38, at their home in the 3100 block of Tate Road. 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.
The teen’s mother, 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.
Leon Tripp, has since been charged with murder and the teen’s mother, who was granted a $500,000 bond last week, has also been charged with concealing the death of another.
For Charleston Lee, 12, the 16-year-old’s story is a reminder that “if you are lost, God will lead the way.” She placed the saying on her rock Thursday.
“It’s a sad story to know,” she said. “At the time people thought that they found her, and now they say that she is dead, but we still have hope.”