Because he has been in jail for more than 90 days without indictment, the man accused of kidnap and murder in his stepdaughter’s disappearance was entitled to bond, and one for $500,000 was set Friday.
Leon Lamar Tripp, 38, is expected to be indicted imminently, District Attorney Natalie Paine said during his Richmond County Superior Court bond hearing. The reason she has delayed seeking an indictment was in hope he would give authorities LaTania Janell Carwell’s location, the prosecutor said.
LaTania hasn’t been seen since Tripp left the family’s Tate Road rental home with her in the early morning hours of April 17, her 16th birthday.
Tripp gave various accounts of what happened to her, but in June, Tripp called for sheriff investigators and his attorney. He said he wanted to see his mother and his two children then he would show investigators the location of LaTania’s body, Paine said. But Tripp changed his mind.
Phone records prove the night Tripp left with LaTania that they took Interstate 20 to Atlanta, Paine said. Janell’s mother, Tanya Faye Tripp, 36, reported them missing on April 17 and told investigators she had no further contact with her husband or daughter.
But phone records prove she was in constant contact with Tripp between April 17 and May 24, the day U.S. Marshals found them at a U Haul facility in DeKalb County, Paine said. They also found LaTania’s 7-year-old sister.
Although they had rented the truck to move possessions from Augusta to an abandoned house in Atlanta, it didn’t contain any items for LaTania’s little sister and no clothingfor her , Paine said.
Paine asked Senior Judge J. David Roper to set bond at $1 million.
Defense attorney Peter Johnson countered that a $1 million bond was simply punitive. Bond is supposed to be reasonable, something a defendant might be able to make, Johnson said. It was unreasonable to “hold him hostage” in a case in which there are more unknowns than known facts, he said.
Paine said that she considered Tripp a flight risk. He fled Augusta for Atlanta where he had people who helped him hide, she said.
Roper set the bond to also include electronic monitoring. He is not to have any contact with the victim’s family.
A $500,00 bond was also set for Tanya Tripp in September. She remains in jail. She is charged with concealing a death.
Tanya Tripp became involved with Tripp while he was in prison. They were pen pals, Paine said. They married before he was released from prison. In 2009, Tripp was sentenced to eight years in prison followed by 12 years on probation for aggravated stalking, aggravated assault and theft in connection with an attack on his estranged wife in Fulton County.
He was paroled in April 2015. Paine said he moved in with LaTania’s family once he was released.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org