6 months After being Reported Missing, Police Officer Arrested for Murder of 16 year old Susana Morales
When Susana Morales went missing on July 26, 2022, her family immediately knew something was wrong. In a timeline documented by WSB-TV News, the beginning of the tragedy occurred in this short period of time:
July 26, 2022:
6:00 PM: Susana Morales leaves her home on Santa Anna Drive in Norcross, walking to a friend's house nearby.
9:40 PM: Morales texts her mother to let her know she's walking home from Windscape Village.
It's the same apartment complex in Norcross where her suspected murderer, former Doraville police officer Miles Bryant, lives. His unit overlooks the Morales' family's home.
10:00 PM: Morales has still not returned home.
10:07 PM - 10:21 PM: A location app shows she is walking on Singleton Road.
10:21 PM - 10:26 PM: Morales' phone indicates that her last known location was Oak Loch Trace near Steve Reynolds Boulevard.
July 27, 2022:
9:00 AM: Morales' parents report her missing to the police.
11:00 AM: Bryant reports his gun being stolen.
October 2, 2022: Bryant responds to a report of a missing child but waits three days to finish the report, according to personnel records. Bryant is written up.
December 11, 2022: A former friend of Bryant's files a police report claiming that he has repeatedly been showing up uninvited at her apartment for nearly a year. The case is never assigned.
Almost seven months later, on February 6, 2023, Morales' remains are found in a wooded area near a highway close to the Gwinnett/Barrow county line. Police find a gun near the remains and determine that it's registered to Bryant.
Missing women of color don't receive the same level of attention and resources from law enforcement as missing white women. Researchers have cited factors such as systemic racism and bias within law enforcement agencies and society as a whole.
But further complicating the data is that non-Black women, such as Latinas, are often counted with white women in missing people data-sets, which researchers say diminishes the scope of the problem in the Latino community.
The Morales Family and Community Seeks Answers
María Bran, Susana Morales; mother, speaks to Jensser Morales of Univision 34 Atlanta
Photo credit: Univision 34 Atlanta
Now, the family is seeking answers and justice for the murder of their daughter. On the website set up to support the family's campaign for justice, the family reports pleading with the Gwinnett County police to escalate the search for their missing daughter, only to be told she probably ran away.
The family was adamant, "She didn't run away. Something happened to her." Morales stayed in constant communication, often took the route she was kidnapped from, and checked in with her family letting them know she was on her way home.
The family eventually took matters into their own hands and contacted a neighbor who lives just a few houses over from the Morales home, who had a camera doorbell. They found video that recorded Morales walking home at 9:40 PM the evening of her disappearance.
Despite all of this, in the very little media coverage that exists in the early efforts to look for the missing Morales, Gwinnett Police responded to an inquiry by Univision Atlanta 34, that, "She is missing as a runaway because she left on her own. There has not been any leads to believe she is in danger. Detectives have currently spent more time following leads on this one case than any of the many other listed runaways. They have followed up on every lead that the family has provided."
It took the police department more than 6 months to find any leads regarding her disappearance despite evidence of Bryant having a history of stalking, harassing, and inappropriate behavior with women and girls. Bryant also lived in the same apartment complex that Morales' friend lived in, and the same one she left on July 26 to head home.
In a press release by the Gwinnett County Police Department, it was reported that a passerby called in possible human remains in the woods near the highway. Five days after the accidental discovery, they arrested Bryant.
Susana's family is still seeking justice and accountability with the Doraville County Police Department, with some members of the community joining in to support.
During a recent community protest covered by FOX5 Atlanta, protester Arely Guerra stated, "When a Hispanic person goes to the department to make a report, I don't want them to label us as... 'They are just gang members.' 'They'll be fine.' 'Oh, they're Hispanic girls, they just ran away' or 'Oh, they are Hispanic family; they always get rowdy.'"
The Morales family is demanding a fair and transparent investigation from the City of Doraville and its Police Department and the Gwinnett Police Department, and an acknowledgment that Title 35 of the Georgia Code was violated when the officers told the family to wait 48 hours before reporting Susana missing. The family has a gofund me to support burial and legal services.
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