Human remains found in Gwinnett identified as missing 16-year-old

Susana Morales, who had been missing about six months, was identified after skeletal remains were found near Dacula, Gwinnett County police said.

Credit: Gwinnett County Police Department

Credit: Gwinnett County Police Department

Susana Morales, who had been missing about six months, was identified after skeletal remains were found near Dacula, Gwinnett County police said.

Investigators have identified the skeletal human remains found near a creek in Gwinnett County on Monday evening as a 16-year-old girl from Norcross missing since July, authorities said.

The teenager, Susana Morales, was reported missing July 26 when she did not come home as expected, Gwinnett police said in a news release. That evening, she left home to walk to a friend’s house. A few hours later, Morales texted her mother to say she was on her way home, but she never returned, police said.

On Monday, a passerby discovered Morales’ remains near Drowning Creek outside Dacula, not far from the intersection of Ga. 316 and Drowning Creek Road, police spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer Richter said. Officers returned to the area Tuesday to complete a more thorough search after the previous evening’s efforts were cut short by nightfall.

Gwinnett County police investigated an area off Drowning Creek Road near Dacula after a passerby discovered skeletal remains there.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

icon to expand image

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Because the remains were heavily decomposed, investigators were not immediately able to determine any information about the victim, Richter said. About 24 hours later, police shared Morales’ identity but said they are still investigating the manner of her death.

Morales was last seen by her family when she left her home on Santa Anna Drive that night around 6 p.m., police said. Around 9:40 p.m., she texted her mother that she was walking home. When she had not returned by 10 p.m., her family used a location app to see that she was moving toward her home from Windscape Village Lane, less than a mile away, police said.

According to police, the location app indicated that Morales was walking between 10:07 p.m. and 10:21 p.m. Investigators believe Morales may have gotten into a car because just minutes later, at 10:26 p.m., her cellphone was tracked to Oak Loch Trace, a street in a neighborhood cul-de-sac about a mile in the opposite direction from her home. Her phone remained at the location until it died or was turned off, police said.

That location is more than 20 miles from the scene near Drowning Creek Road where her body was found. Morales’ cellphone has not been recovered, police said.

Police are working with the Gwinnett medical examiner to determine what may have happened to Morales, police said. A police spokeswoman said Morales’ body had been unsheltered and exposed to the elements “for quite some time.”

Detectives are asking anyone who may have information about this case to contact them at 770-513-5300. To remain anonymous, tipsters may contact Crime Stoppers Greater Atlanta at 404-577-TIPS (8477) or visit

— Please return to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for updates.

About the Author