AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The ex-wife of the man in jail for kidnapping his stepdaughter spoke exclusively with NewsChannel 6. Several questions surround the stepfather of the missing teen, 16-year-old LaTania Janell Carwell, and his past.
“I think it was out of character for him to take the daughter. Him leaving no.”
That’s the opinion of Makeda Kay, the woman married to Leon Tripp from 2003 to 2009.
She came forward to share her experience with the man who now wears an orange jumpsuit in the disappearance of LaTania Carwell.
Kay told me Leon had a scheduled child support hearing in Augusta the week the two left their Terrace Manor home.
“I don’t think he’s going to court because they’ve been missing.”
LaTania Carwell was presumed missing with her stepfather when Kay heard the news of the 16-year-old’s disappearance. Sine she was expecting him to appear in court that week she said she inquired about his home life with Tanya Tripp in case he was given a chance to take his children into his home.
“Especially with our oldest child,” Kay recalled. “He would never go off with her. He would go off on his own if he was to go off.”
Kay released a statement to a hungry group of concerned citizens across the country who all want LaTania found safely.
She stated she warned Tanya Tripp about her husband before they married and even wrote letters to prevent his released from prison. She even said she helped law enforcement as much as she could in the search for LaTania.
In an exclusive interview she told us the Leon she married in 2003 was a church going family man who was a good mechanic.
“And when he’d drink he was definitely more abusive,” she explained. “He reflects back on times when he was younger. His interpretation of what he felt like was wrong when he was coming up, what he didn’t have. Just being victim. He was angry and it would come out more when he was drinking.”
Kay added Tripp broke into the children’s room in an apartment she lived in with their two daughters when she left him and that’s where the cruelty to children in the third degree charge came from. She said she does not think her ex-husband killed LaTania or sold her into the human trafficking industry and he stayed in the Oakland City area of Atlanta all of his life, so she thinks LaTania is close to his home.
“He’s not a person who explores past Georgia,” Kay said adding that she does not believe he took LaTania to another state. “I just don’t see them going anywhere where they would be far. The GPS and him not knowing how to get around is true, but he does know how to find out how to get around.”
The search for LaTania continues as Tripp made his first court appearance.
The District Attorney, Natalie Paine, said in court that LaTania is either presumed dead or unable to communicate.
She added, “Mr. Tripp and his wife who is the mother of Janell, their statements are in conflict although they seem to be working in concert with each other.”
Pained added that Leon Tripp took Janell to Atlanta and that he and Tanya, his wife, were found at a rental place in DeKalb County dropping off a UHaul.
Leon Tripp said very little.
“I would like to remain silent until I have counsel,” he said.
Photojournalist: Mark Gaskins