The body of a 19-year-old woman who was missing for seven days was found Tuesday night in a wooded area of DeKalb County.
Téa Choates appeared to have been strangled and was buried in the woods near the Lithonia home she shared with her grandmother and fiancé, according to DeKalb County police. She was three months pregnant, her mother said.
Ebony King took to social media on Monday to ask for help to find her daughter after she disappeared on Aug. 6. The last person to see Choates was believed to be her fiancé, Aldeyshaun Locklear.
The 18-year-old was arrested Wednesday on charges of felony murder, aggravated assault related to strangulation and concealing a death. He is jailed without bond.
Months earlier, King implored her daughter to join her in Florida, where she runs a home for girls rescued from human trafficking and domestic abuse. Choates considered leaving Locklear but ultimately decided against it.
“She loved him,” King said. “She wanted to stay, no matter what I would say to her. She really just wanted the family.”
King and her husband had confronted Locklear over past incidents of violence, she said. The first was in March. Locklear sent King text messages, she said, professing his affection for her daughter and promising things would be different.
“Téa’s biggest thing was she would say, ‘I could change him, I can help him,” she said. “That’s how her heart was built ... but you can’t love a person hard enough to change.”
It is hard now for King to reconcile the reality of Choates’ death with the silly, energetic girl who loved competitive cheerleading and was always the center of attention. The family spent much of Choates’ childhood in Johns Creek, where she attended Northview High School.
The DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s office has not yet determined Choates’ cause of death. According to police, Locklear allegedly confessed to killing her after an argument and burying her body.
The discovery comes days after authorities issued a call for victims of domestic violence to seek help. The county was promoting its resources for victims after a recent case of alleged abuse turned deadly.
Police have accused Otis Walker, 27, of shooting and killing his 27-year-old girlfriend, Aleka Simmons, before opening fire on officers at his Stonecrest home earlier this month. A police officer was wounded in the exchange.
Simmons’ death was the eighth homicide related to domestic violence in DeKalb County this year, according DeKalb County police assistant Chief Antonio Catlin.
In a statement, interim police Chief Joseph Lumpkin said victims are not alone, and there is a way out of abusive relationships. Police have dedicated a special victims unit to address domestic violence, he said.
Several local agencies are available to help victims, including the Women’s Resource Center, International Women's House, Men Stopping Violence, Tapestri and Victim Information and Notification Everyday.
King, still navigating a haze of grief and blame, is also taking up the banner. Her advice to victims is to stay connected to family, and don’t try to hide the reality of a violent relationship.
“This is real, and it happens every day,” she said.
A GoFundMe page was created by a family friend to help with burial expenses.
— Please return to AJC.com for updates.
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