LaTania seen at church hours before disappearance, search for body ongoing

Greater Young Zion Baptist Church member confirms LaTania attended church Easter morning.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The investigation into missing Augusta teen LaTania Carwell switched gears from kidnapping to a homicide investigation. Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree broke the news Monday morning during a press conference.

Now questions are swirling about the 16-year-old’s mother, her stepfather and where her body is located.

Investigators interviewed a person connected with this case on Friday and that is why it was upgraded to a homicide. As they look for the body of LaTania we continued to narrow down who saw the teen last and we confirmed she was in church Easter morning, hours before she was reported missing.

Earnestine McKie attended Greater Young Zion Baptist Church that morning she refereed to as Resurrection Sunday.

“When she looked me in my eyes honestly it was like I’d never seen her look like that,” Mckie said.

When Mckie saw Carwell Sunday, April 16th, she didn’t realize it would probably be the last time.

“She came over where I was and she tapped me on the shoulder and she said auntie we’re here. My mom, we’re over in the overflow. I said oh, OK,” Mckie described. “I looked back and we threw kisses, you know waved or threw kisses.”

After the first Easter service ended at Greater Young Zion Baptist Church Mckie said LaTania and her family left. But her memory of the child she considered a God daughter stayed.

“Yellow dress.  [It was] basic and her headband like she normally would. Just simple,” she recalled.

McKie opened up to NewsChannel 6 after Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree opened up about the investigation moving to a homicide case. He said investigators used forensic evidence to begin searching in the Augusta area and a more organized search resumes this week.

“We have not yet located the particular area in which we feel the remains are because the remains and the crime scene might be two different places,” Sheriff Roundtree said. “Right now, we’re just trying to recover the remains.”

LaTania was reported missing by her mother nearly two months ago, so Roundtree said his office believes someone knows something and he’s inviting the public to report it. No physical evidence was found in LaTania’s home on Tate Road, but the sheriff said they are going over the details of the case again.

Mckie, who also talked with Tanya Tripp too prior to her arrest, said she’s going over details as well. Despite the case now being a homicide, she’s hoping for a safe return.

“She would say love you and I would say I love you too. But Easter Sunday was the last Sunday that I saw her and if I knew something like that was going to happen, I might have asked her to sit beside me,” Mckie said.

The sheriff addressed how there have been several rumors surrounding this case. He said rumors only make the investigation more difficult.

Photojournalist: Mark Gaskins

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