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Tip led to remains of Georgia teen missing for nearly a year

The stepfather, along with the 16-year-old's mother, face several charges as police urgently search for Latania Carwell.

Nearly one year after a teen went missing and her mother and stepfather were arrested in metro Atlanta, the girl’s remains were discovered in a shallow grave, officials said.

Bones found in the backyard of a vacant residence in Augusta last week were identified as those of Latania Janell Carwell, who was last seen April 17, the night before her 16th birthday, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office said.

The girl’s stepfather, Leon Tripp, was arrested in DeKalb County in May 23 in connection with her disappearance. Her mother, Tanya Tripp, was arrested in Atlanta the same day.

The sheriff’s office received a phone call Thursday from someone who had discovered some human remains on Golden Camp Road, Sheriff Richard Roundtree said Tuesday at a news conference.

A forensic search was conducted that included the coroner and a GBI anthropologist, Roundtree said. Monday, officials learned dental records sent to the GBI crime lab confirmed the remains were those of Carwell.

“We did find information (during the process) that supports the fact that the subjects we have in custody are responsible,” Roundtree said.

In June, Roundtree said Carwell was thought to be dead based on a statement made by the stepfather, the last person seen with the teen.

That prompted authorities to charge Leon Tripp with kidnapping and murder. Tanya Tripp was charged with concealing a death. Both are in the Richmond County jail.

Richmond County District Attorney Natalie Paine didn’t say if more charges would be filed against Tanya Tripp in connection with the discovery, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The investigation is ongoing, the sheriff said. The next steps are determining the actual cause of death of the girl and possible indictments of the suspects by a grand jury.

Leon Lamar Tripp (Credit: DeKalb County Sheriff's Office)
Leon Lamar Tripp (Credit: DeKalb County Sheriff's Office)

Leon Tripp was in Johnson State Prison from June 2009 until April 2015 for aggravated assault, according to Georgia Department of Corrections records. He remains on probation as part of that sentence.

Tanya Tripp married Leon Tripp while he was in prison, the Chronicle reported.

The investigation began when Tanya Tripp went to authorities and reported her daughter was missing. It became a murder case, in part, because of “holes” in Tanya Tripp’s statements to police, Roundtree said.

“At least now,” he said, “the community can find peace.”

Timeline of the case:

April 18, 2017: Tanya Tripp reports her daughter, Latania Carwell, is missing.

April 23: Leon Tripp's truck is located in the Augusta area.

May 1: Leon Tripp is charged with kidnapping.

May 23: Leon Tripp is arrested in DeKalb County. Tanya Tripp is arrested by Atlanta police on a warrant out of Richmond County that charged her with hindering the apprehension of a criminal.

Aug. 23: Leon Tripp is charged with murder, and Tanya Tripp is charged with concealing a death.

March 8, 2018: A citizen calls the Richmond County Sheriff's Office about human remains found in the backyard of a vacant residence on Golden Camp Road. Authorities begin an investigation, with help from the GBI.

March 12: Dental records sent to the GBI crime lab are confirmed that the remains were those of Carwell.