Leon Tripp, the stepfather of LaTania Carwell has finally admitted that she is dead.
As law enforcement agencies continue to search for the remains of a missing 16-year-old, her mother will stay in jail on a charge of hindering the apprehension of a criminal her husband, Leon Lamar Tripp.
On Friday, Tanya Faye Tripp, 35, attended her Richmond County Superior Court bond hearing in a pink jail suit, handcuffed and shackled. District Attorney Natalie Paine said Tripp maintained contact with her husband during the time officers searched for him and LaTania Carwell.
Leon Tripp has said Carwell is dead, Paine said.
Tanya Tripp reported Carwell and her husband missing April 17, which was her daughter’s birthday. Hours earlier, Leon Tripp told her that he was going to Clarks Hill to help a friend with car trouble and that he was taking the teen with him. Tanya Tripp said she awoke in the middle of the night and, seeing her husband was not home, called him. He said he was still in Clarks Hill, Paine said.
Phone records, however, show Tripp was not in the Clarks Hill area, Paine said.
The pickup that Tripp left in was found near the family’s Tate Road rental home about a week later, Paine said. Eight days after Carwell went missing, a kidnapping warrant was taken out for her stepfather, whom her mother married when he was in prison. He moved in with the family in 2015, Paine said.
While officers searched for Tripp, he made a couple of trips back to Augusta from Atlanta, Paine said. Investigators believe Tanya Tripp facilitated those trips, although she insisted to officers that she didn’t know where her husband or daughter were, Paine said.
When U.S. marshals found Tripp at a U-Haul facility in the Atlanta area, his wife was with him, as was her 7-year-old daughter, Paine said. Tanya Tripp claimed she was going to rent a truck and just happened to run into her husband. She had no clothes or personal items for her younger daughter, the district attorney said.
Despite her denials, phone records show Tanya Tripp maintained contact with her husband since her daughter’s disappearance, Paine said.
This week, officers began searching for the teeen’s remains in the south Augusta area around her former home and the abandoned Regency Mall.
Defense attorney Kelly Williamson asked Senior Judge John Robert Turner, of the Ogeechee Circuit, to set a reasonable bond for Tanya Tripp, who is charged with hindering, not homicide. She has family and friends in Augusta and is not a flight risk, Williamson argued.
Tripp wasn’t running from Augusta when she was arrested in Atlanta, Williamson said. She had been evicted from the Tate Road home and was trying to find a place to live, which she told law enforcement before leaving, Williamson said.
Turner denied bond, finding Tripp could pose a risk of fleeing and tampering with evidence.