For Carter Davis, it was supposed to be the first day of his senior year at River Ridge High School. Natalie Henderson, meanwhile, still had a week to go before heading back to Roswell High School for her final year.
Instead, investigators worked Monday to determine how the bodies of the two 17-year-olds ended up behind a Roswell grocery store, both with severe head trauma, according to police.
The King Plaza, at the intersection of Woodstock and King roads, is a busy, suburban shopping center anchored by a Publix. Early Monday, the area just behind the grocery store became a crime scene, Roswell police said.
A delivery driver spotted the two bodies shortly before 6 a.m. and called police, according to Officer Zachary Frommer. Investigators believe Carter and Natalie had been in the area between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., and two vehicles found in the area were part of the investigation, according to police. But no information was released on why the teenagers were there, who they may have met, and who was responsible for their deaths.
As anxious relatives and friends awaited details, police identified the victims late Monday afternoon as Carter and Natalie. Two school communities were shocked to learn of the students’ deaths, with many using social media to express condolences.
“Thank you for pushing me Natalie,” a Roswell High sophomore tweeted. “Thank you for pushing me when I wanted to quit.”
Natalie had been part of the school’s Color Guard for three years, but had decided to spend her senior year focusing on her academics and her job, a friend said. Marching band practice was canceled Monday after news spread of Natalie’s death.
In Cherokee County, Carter never arrived at River Ridge, where he was a strong student and played lacrosse and football.
The school's principal released a statement Monday night, WSB-tv reported: "Carter was an energetic student who was known as a friend to all. He always came to class in a good mood and with a smile on his face. He excelled in the classroom and was always willing to help out classmates.
"He played football and lacrosse at River Ridge High School. He was a kicker for the football team and was a running back for the offense. On the lacrosse team, he shined playing the attack position. He led the team in assists for the 2016 season, and aspired to play lacrosse at the collegiate level."
Earlier Monday, the Cherokee County school district spokeswoman said in a statement, "We all are devastated by this tragic news. Carter excelled in the classroom and on the field and will be greatly missed by many friends. Today he should have been enjoying the first day of his senior year of high school, which is a special time for every child and family.”
On an athletic recruiting website, Carter posted that his family had moved several times while his father completed medical school and a residency. Though he loved playing football, he had quit the team for his senior year and planned to focus on lacrosse, he wrote.
“I love lacrosse: the fast pace, the quick moves, and the teammates, and I hope to play lacrosse in college,” Carter wrote. “I also am an excellent student; I just earned a 3.83 this past semester, and I’m enrolled in two AP classes for my senior year: AP Calc and AP Physics.”
Investigators were interviewing employees of local businesses and reviewing surveillance footage Monday, Frommer said. Police do not believe a drug transaction was involved, but declined to speculate on why the teenagers met in the early morning hours.
“We are following up on several leads,” Frommer said late Monday.
Anyone with any information on the case is asked to contact Roswell police or Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-TIPS.