Nearly two weeks after police told the family of 15-year-old Quawan Charles that his body was found in a sugarcane field in Loreauville, La., the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office is now saying that it is investigating the death as a homicide, but The Root has learned that new developments in the case are raising even more question for the teen’s grieving family.
Despite the lack of urgency or transparency in the police’s investigation, which the family and their lawyers spoke to The Root about in an interview just last week, the sheriff’s office issued a statement on Saturday saying it has been looking at the case as a homicide from the very beginning.
From NBC News:
“Just as we do in any case involving someone found deceased in this manner, we immediately began treating this as a homicide investigation at the very moment we found Quawan “Bobby” Charles,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement Saturday.
The sheriff’s office also said that it had not been alerted to Charles’ disappearance until Nov. 3, when one of his parents contacted the office.
Charles’ mother had initially reported him missing to her local police department in the town of Baldwin, and the department then notified the local sheriff’s office in St. Mary Parish, the statement said.
It’s clear that problematic communication by police, as well as the almost-complete absence of communication with the family of Quawan, is a feature of this tragic and suspicious case. Though the family reported their son missing on October 30 to their local authorities, this information was not relayed to investigators until days later—when they ended up finding his body and told the family he appeared to have drowned.
It appears the family may not even have been aware that the case was being investigated as a homicide. Chase Trichell, an attorney for the family, told NBC News he was heartened to hear the news and that Iberia Parish Sheriff Thomas Romero has told them nothing about their findings in the investigation so far.
“Any time a 15-year-old minor goes missing and turns up in a sugar cane field 30 miles from where he was last seen, it should have been investigated as a homicide from day one,” Trichell told The Root on Monday. “We are constantly disappointed in the slow reaction from the law enforcement agencies involved in Quawan’s disappearance and death.”
Numerous reports indicate that Quawan was last seen with a 17-year-old acquaintance and his mother. Trichell and attorney Ronald Haley, who are both representing the Charles family, told The Root that the Baldwin Police Department recently turned over video footage that confirms Quawan was with the woman and her son on the day of the incident.
According to interviews with the neighbors conducted by private investigators hired by the family’s attorneys, along with photographs the family lawyers shared with The Root, the woman and her son were last seen loading their belongings into a U-Haul trailer and leaving Loreauville.
Quawan’s family has no idea if the sheriff’s office is aware of these developments or if the woman is even a suspect. On Friday, the family demanded a meeting with the team investigating the teenager’s death but has reportedly received no response from the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office to their request.
“It’s obvious the sheriff is not taking the family’s grief seriously,” Trichell said. “They cannot get closure if there are no answers.”
In its own statement, the sheriff’s office said that it is reviewing toxicology results and that a review of video evidence from an area near where Quawan’s body was found showed that no one else was with him before his death, NBC reports.