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Former Georgia police officer now charged with kidnapping and murdering missing teen girl left ‘naked’ in the woods

Susana Morales, Miles Bryant

Susana Morales (Gwinnett Police Department), Miles Bryant appears in court (11 Alive screengrab)

A former police officer in Georgia is now accused of kidnapping and murdering 16-year-old Susana Morales, whose death he was previously accused of concealing and lying about.

Gwinnett County Police Chief J.D. McClure at a Wednesday press conference revealed the upgraded charges against Miles Bryant, of Norcross, in Morales’ July 2022 disappearance and death.

Asked by a reporter for his reaction as a police officer to the reality that the ex-Doraville police officer is accused of murder, the police chief said the “unspeakable tragedy” of the case “evokes anger,” even within the ranks of his own department as they investigate an alleged crime by a former member of an outside department.

The police chief said it’s still not known how Morales died, but he expressed certainty that Bryant killed her.

Arrest warrants previously obtained by Law&Crime shed more light on how Bryant was first identified as a suspect in the July 2022 missing person case. The former officer allegedly lived in the Sterling Glen Apartments complex—and worked there as a security guard— “in close proximity to [the] victim and dumped her naked body in the woods.” Investigators believe Morales’ last known location was that apartment complex, where she had visited a friend.

On the night Morales was last seen alive, she texted her mom that she was on her way home. She never made it.

“On Tuesday, Jul 26, 2022, Morales texted her mom at 9:40 p.m., saying she was on her way home. At approximately 10:00 p.m., Morales had not returned home. A location application showed Morales walking on Singleton Road to her home from Windscape Village Lane between 10:07 p.m. and 10:21 p.m. Morales was last seen wearing light blue jeans, a yellow spaghetti-strapped shirt, and white crocs,” cops said. “Between 10:21 p.m. and 10:26 p.m., Morales’s cell phone indicates that her last known location was at Oak Loch Trace near Steve Reynolds. Morales’s cell phone continued to show being in the area of Oak Loch Trace until the cell phone died or was turned off.”

Authorities have alleged that Bryant concealed Morales’ death between July 26, 2022, at 10:20 p.m. and 1:40 a.m. on July 27, 2022, unlawfully “hindering the discovery of whether or not such person was unlawfully killed.” Her family reported her missing early that morning.

“Accused did, willfully and knowingly gave a false report of a crime to a law enforcement officer by falsely reporting that his vehicle was broken into and his gun was stolen,” the warrant said. Documents listed Bryant’s vehicle as a black Ford F-150.

The initial charges against Bryant came after investigators confirmed on Feb. 6 that Morales’ remains were found in a wooded area along Highway 316. That discovery was made more than six months after Morales’ family reported her missing.

“On Monday, Feb 06, 2023, shortly after 6:30 p.m., Gwinnett Police responded to Hwy 316 between Drowning Creek and the Barrow County Line after receiving a call from a passerby stating they saw what they believed to be human remains in the woods,” police said. “Detectives and CSI responded to the scene, and the Gwinnett Medical Examiners’ office took possession of the remains. Detectives are investigating the manner and cause of death of Morales.”

In January, police said video evidence from Morales’ cellphone indicated she “may have gotten into a vehicle” when walking in the direction of her home.

At least one of Bryant’s neighbors spoke with 11 Alive and said he was “very normal, just smiling laughing, living his life” over the last six months, even as Morales “laid out in a field somewhere” some 20 miles away from where she went missing.

Since Bryant’s arrest, it was revealed that a woman came forward and accused him of stalking her for the better part of a year.

The Doraville Police Department previously confirmed that Bryant was fired.

“The City of Doraville was notified the afternoon of Monday, February 13 that a now former police officer was being served felony arrest warrants by the Gwinnett Police Department in connection with the disappearance and murder of Susana Morales. The City of Doraville and its Police Department are fully cooperating with the Gwinnett Police Department in its investigation of Mr. Bryant,” a statement from the department said. “Our prayers rest with the family and friends of Susana Morales and everyone else affected by this tragedy.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, Gwinnett County jail records do not yet reflect the addition of the murder and kidnapping charges, but Bryant remains in custody. The latest charges will only ensure that continues.

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.