Campus police say the 17-year-old suspect from Hawkinsville was arrested Thursday. He is enrolled at a high school and at the central Georgia college. The Associated Press generally doesn’t identify juvenile suspects.
The teen is charged with murder in the disappearance and death of 19-year-old freshman Jmaal Malik Keyes of Austell, just west of Atlanta, authorities said. Keyes was living in a residence hall on the school’s Cochran campus when he was last seen April 25.
School officials said campus police worked with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and local police to search numerous times for Keyes and followed up leads, one of which led to Thursday’s arrest.
Police have not revealed details of how Keyes was slain and the body has not been found.
Todd Lowery, a special agent in charge at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that authorities were searching sections of the Ocmulgee River for the man’s body Friday. Authorities were searching areas of Bleckley and Pulaski counties Friday evening, GBI Inspector Sherry Lang said.
Campus police said they have surveillance video that shows Keyes, who did not have a car on the campus, getting into another student’s car, WXIA-TV reported. Officers located that student, who told them he dropped Keyes off in a neighborhood near campus April 25, the Atlanta station reported.
That is the last time anyone has reported seeing Keyes. Police said his belongings were untouched in his dorm room.
“We are absolutely devastated by this news,” interim college President John Black said in a statement. “There just are no words to describe how deeply hurt we are and how terrible we feel for Jmaal’s family.”
Black said he wants to convey his condolences to everyone in Keyes’ family and those who knew him.
“We ask everyone in the Middle Georgia community to keep this family in their thoughts and prayers in the days and weeks to come,” Black said. “We will cooperate in every way to help law enforcement authorities complete their investigation.”
Keyes and the teenage suspect apparently knew each other as classmates, campus Police Chief Shawn Douglas told WMAZ-TV.
The suspect was “dual-enrolled” at his high school and the college. Investigators did not find any calls between the two on their cellphones, he said.
Wilbur Purvis, a pastor from Keyes’ church in Austell, said the teen had been very active at Destiny World Church. At a news conference Friday, Purvis said Keyes’ older brother graduated from college this week with a criminal justice degree and the teen wanted to follow in his footsteps.
Keyes’ mother is relying on her faith for guidance after losing her son, Purvis said.
“She was very adamant when she spoke to her children about not being bitter, not being angry, accepting this as something that has occurred and believing that her faith in God will get her through,” he said.