ATLANTA -- Authorities are offering an increased reward as they desperately search for the remains of a missing Augusta teen who hasn't been seen for more months now.
Police believe 16-year-old Latania Janell Carwell was kidnapped from her home on her birthday by her stepdad, 38-year-old Leon Tripp, back on April 17. Eariler this month, the Richmond County Sheriff made the announcement that investigators were shifting their focus from finding the teen alive to finding her remains after getting new information that led them to believe Carwell may have been murdered.
Despite numerous searches, though, Carwell's remains have still not been found. Now, an Augusta business owner has upped the reward to $2,500 to anyone who can help solve the mystery and give the young woman a proper burial.
PHOTOS | Latania Janell Carwell
Both of the teen's parents are now in custody on charges related to the disappearance of the teen. Leon was picked up in DeKalb County for the outstanding kidnapping case in Richmond County and faced felony charges of aggravated stalking, theft by taking and a probation violation from 2009. He waived his first appearance in court.
Leon's wife, Tanya Faye Tripp, was also arrested for allegedly hindering the apprehension of a criminal. During the investigation, detectives said that she had moved from Augusta to the Atlanta area to be with Leon and tried to help him evade police. Tanya is being held in the Atlanta City Jail.
Investigators haven't revealed much other information, including whether Carwell's parents are cooperating with the investigation. He also didn't say whether the teen ever actually made it out of Augusta, though she and Leon had reportedly been spotted in the Atlanta area on May 1. However, they were confident they would find Carwell's remains by the end of this week.
"We had a search team in the metro Atlanta area come out this weekend and conducted multiple searches of the area, and they will be out again this week conducting additional searches based on forensic evidence...but we have not yet located the particular area in which we believe the remains are," Roundtree said.
Anyone with information is asked to call 706-821-1020 during business hours or contact dispatch after hours at 706-821-1080 and ask for the on-call investigator. All calls can be handled confidentially.
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