In a new petition, Susana Morales’ grieving family members posted a list of demands and alleged that investigators broke the law when loved ones tried to report the murdered 16-year-old missing nearly a year ago.
The online campaign, which is accepting donations and has thousands of signatures on the petition, includes a lengthy post from Morales’ sister Jasmine. In that post, Jasmine said Morales’ family knew something was wrong within 20 minutes of her last text — and yet, she said, the Gwinnett County Police Department declined to immediately consider the teen a missing person:
Susana Morales was 16 when she went missing. She was my sister. On Tuesday, July 26, Susana was with our family all day and later that night, decided to go to a friend’s house. Her friend lived in the neighborhood, a 9-minute walk from our house, and she spent the evening there until around 9:40 PM when she texted our mom letting us know she was on the way home. This was a walk she had done many times, and we were waiting for her arrival. At 10 PM, she still wasn’t home. We knew something went wrong. We BEGGED Gwinnett County police to look for her, but they told us that people aren’t considered missing until after 48 hours. We knew we couldn’t wait that long. Throughout the entire investigation, the police dismissed us and said that she was a runaway when we knew she would never do that.
Among the list of the family’s demands is for the Gwinnett County Police Department to acknowledge that “Title 35 of the Georgia Code was violated when the officers told us to wait 48 hours before reporting Susana missing.”
The Georgia statute provides that: “No law enforcement agency shall implement a policy or practice which mandates a minimum waiting period before initiating a missing person report with such agency; provided, however, that it shall remain within the discretion of the law enforcement agency to determine what action, if any, is required in response to such a report.”
Susana’s sister said that authorities did not end up finding their loved one’s remains until February 2023 — more than six months after the family immediately knew she wasn’t the teen “runaway” investigators suggested she might be.
“It took the police department more than 6 months to find any leads regarding her disappearance until earlier this year they began to ask us for more details. They asked for her full dental record and for my mom to do a DNA test. After all this, on February 8th they called us and said that her remains had been found in the woods,” Jasmine wrote.
The family also demanded a “fair and transparent investigation from the Doraville County Police Department,” which hired 22-year-old former officer Miles Bryant and reprimanded him multiple times during his 21 months on the job. The family is seeking more information on Bryant’s indictment, Bryant’s prosecution and conviction, and a review of processes in cases of missing minors “so that families can have access to full transparency during investigation.”
Morales’ family said the Doraville Police Department should be “held accountable for knowingly hiring a man with a history of violence, and for not taking accountability for the harm their officer has committed against any sister, my family, and the other women he has victimized” After Bryant’s arrest, it was revealed that a woman previously came forward and accused him of stalking her for the better part of a year.
Law&Crime reached out to the public information offices (PIO) of both the Gwinnett County Police Department and the Doraville Police Department prior to this story’s publication for comment.
Gwinnett County Police Department’s PIO said a missing person report was taken around 9 a.m. on July 27, the morning after the suspected kidnapping. The PIO shared an excerpt of department policy on missing children, which says there isn’t a “waiting period” to report a child missing:
When a “Runaway Juvenile Report” or “Missing Juvenile Report” is requested, the responding officer should determine whether the juvenile is considered runaway or missing. According to O.C.G.A. 15-11-381(4), a juvenile cannot be considered a runaway unless he or she has left home and has not returned after 24 hours. A juvenile should be listed onto GCIC as soon as possible. There is no waiting period to report a juvenile missing. If the child has not been missing for more than 24 hours, the reporting officer should complete a report titled “Missing Juvenile” and list the juvenile in the suspect area of the report.
Prosecutors allege that then-Doraville Police Officer Miles Bryant kidnapped and murdered Morales in the summer of 2022 before discarding the victim’s naked body in a wooded area. Bryant was initially accused of concealing 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.” Investigators also said Bryant lied about his vehicle being broken into and his gun stolen.
Those two allegations formed the initial basis of the charges against Bryant in Morales’ disappearance. In announcing the much more serious kidnapping and murder charges, investigators said they had not yet determined how Morales died but were confident that Bryant is the person who killed her.
It was revealed that the former officer lived in the Sterling Glen Apartments complex — and worked there as a security guard — near where Morales lived. Investigators believe Morales’ last known location was that apartment complex, where she had visited a friend.
Morales’ last communication to her family was a text to her mom saying she was headed home on the night of July 26, 2022.
“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.”
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