Family members of a 16-year-old Georgia girl who was found dead after her disappearance have issued a new petition calling for changes in the way local police conduct investigations into missing teenagers.
Susana Morales’ sister Jasmine also wants an investigation into the Doraville Police Department’s hiring practices after a former police officer did soin relation to the teenager’s death. Miles Bryant, who was provisionally charged with falsely reporting a crime and covering up the death of another, was later charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping.
Morales went missing on July 26, 2022 in Norcross, Georgia, her family said. She had been staying with a friend that night and had texted her mother around 9:40pm as she was on her way home. The teenager should have gotten home quickly – it was a nine-minute walk through local streets – but she never made it back.
“We knew something was wrong,” Jasmine Morales wrote in a petition. “We asked the Gwinnett County Police Department to search for her, but they told us the people weren’t listed as missing for 48 hours. We knew we couldn’t wait that long.”
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The teen’s remains were found in a wooded area off a highway about 20 miles from where she lived on February 6, 2023. Bryant was arrested on February 13.
Gwinnett Police Department
Police have dismissed Morales’ family’s concerns during the investigation, the teenager’s sister said. Local authorities have defended the police search in the months since the teen’s disappearance.
“Our investigators have continuously worked the case of Susana Morales since we received it,” Gwinnett County Police said. “We were in constant contact with Susana’s family and told them what was happening in the case. On the day Susana was reported missing, our officers conducted a search of several locations where people suspected Susana might be, but found no leads.”
The teenager’s family wants the police’s missing child search procedure to be updated.
“We are calling for the missing child procedure to be evaluated and amended so that families can enjoy full transparency in the investigation,” they wrote in a petition.
They also allege that Bryant, who was fired after officers were made aware of the allegations against him, has a history of stalking and harassing women. The 22-year-old worked for the Doraville, DeKalb County Police Department, about 5 miles from Morales’ home in neighboring Gwinnett County. While employed by the Doraville Police Department, he was reprimanded multiple times, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported.
“We want the Doraville County Police Department to be held accountable for knowingly hiring a man with a history of violence and not to take responsibility for the harm their officer caused to a sister, my family and others.” inflicted on women he victimized.” said Morales’ sister.
Thousands have signed the family’s petition calling for a transparent investigation by Doraville Police.
“All involved must be held accountable for this terrible injustice,” Morales’ family wrote.