Remains of DeKalb man missing since 2020 found in Morgan County

The remains of Chanceler "C.J." McCall, a DeKalb County man reported missing in December 2020, were discovered recently in Morgan County, according to authorities. (Credit: Crime Stoppers of Greater Atlanta)

Credit: Crime Stoppers

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The remains of Chanceler "C.J." McCall, a DeKalb County man reported missing in December 2020, were discovered recently in Morgan County, according to authorities. (Credit: Crime Stoppers of Greater Atlanta)

Credit: Crime Stoppers

Credit: Crime Stoppers

Skeletal remains unearthed in rural Georgia woods last month were recently identified as those of a DeKalb County man who had been missing since December 2020.

Chanceler James “CJ” McCall, a 23-year-old Lithonia man, was presumed dead by authorities, despite the fact his body had never been located.

In fact, DeKalb County police arrested two men in connection with McCall’s homicide in March 2021, a police spokesperson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Earnest Lee Johnson Jr., 24, was arrested March 11 and Brandon Jelani McCullough, 29, was taken into custody one day later. Both Decatur men have been charged with felony murder, kidnapping and aggravated assault, court records show.

The discovery in Morgan County on Dec. 16 confirmed McCall’s death. According to GBI Special Agent Mary Chandler, Morgan County deputies, GBI agents and a K-9 search and rescue team found the remains in a wooded area off the Newborn Road exit of I-20 in Rutledge.

The GBI Medical Examiner’s Office analyzed the remains and determined them to be McCall’s on Jan. 4, Chandler said.

McCall was reported missing Dec. 28, 2020, according to DeKalb investigators. The last time he was seen alive was that night when he went to Johnson’s house in the 5500 block of Donnell Way. According to an arrest warrant, McCall’s mother told investigators he visited the Decatur residence to discuss a debt he owed the suspect.

DeKalb police allege Johnson shot McCall with an AR-15 rifle. McCullough also shot him, then helped Johnson dispose of the body, investigators contend.

According to the arrest warrant, the two suspects are friends who live on the same block in the Miller Oaks Estates subdivision.

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Earnest Lee Johnson Jr. (left) and Brandon Jelani McCullough have been charged with felony murder. (Credit: DeKalb County Sheriff's Office)

Credit: DKSO

Earnest Lee Johnson Jr. (left) and Brandon Jelani McCullough have been charged with felony murder. (Credit: DeKalb County Sheriff's Office)

Credit: DKSO

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Earnest Lee Johnson Jr. (left) and Brandon Jelani McCullough have been charged with felony murder. (Credit: DeKalb County Sheriff's Office)

Credit: DKSO

Credit: DKSO

The warrant indicates the shooting happened in front of Johnson’s house. Witnesses told police they saw Johnson and another man dragging what appeared to be a lifeless body into a car and leaving the scene.

Police found McCall’s burgundy 2017 Dodge Challenger “burned out” a few miles from Johnson’s home.

A trail of spent rounds that went from the street to Johnson’s doorstep had at least three different type of shell casings — 9mm, .40-caliber and AR rounds. Investigators searched Johnson’s home and found an AR-15 under his mattress that matched the AR casings.

McCall’s phone pinged at Johnson’s house around the time of the shooting and blood on the street in front of the residence was McCall’s, according to the charging affidavit.

According to the warrant, Johnson said some gunmen came to his house and shot McCall while the victim was visiting his home.

Johnson’s mother gave investigators a video that she said showed McCullough holding a gun while another man fired shots at McCall as he was walking to his car. She did not identify Johnson as one of those shown in the video.

But Johnson’s stepfather, who also watched the footage, told investigators Johnson was in the recording with the two other men, the arrest warrant alleged.

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