'Cop Turned Killer' Found Guilty Of Kidnapping And Murdering 16-Year-Old Girl

A former Georgia police officer was convicted on Wednesday of kidnapping and murdering a 16-year-old girl who went missing as she was walking home from a friend’s home.

Miles Bryant, a former police officer in Doraville, a suburb north of Atlanta, was found guilty of malice murder, felony murder, kidnapping and a false report of a crime in the death of Susana Morales, who disappeared in 2022. Her body was found months later in the woods, WXIA-TV in Atlanta reported. Bryant was found not guilty of attempted rape.

Morales was initially reported missing in July 2022 by her mother, who said her daughter never returned to their Norcross home from a friend’s house nearby, according to an incident report obtained by HuffPost.

A photo of Susana Morales was posted with a GoFundMe page.
A photo of Susana Morales was posted with a GoFundMe page.

The family said they last heard from Morales at 9:40 p.m. on July 26, 2022, when she messaged her mother that she was on her way home, according to a news release from the Gwinnett County Police Department.

Her mother told officers that Morales did not pick up her phone after that text, though her sister was able to track her phone’s location through an app until 10:30 p.m. that day

Morales’ body was not located until Feb. 6, 2023, when the Gwinnett County police responded to a report from a passerby who said they found skeletal remains while walking in a wooded area about 20 miles east of her home, according to an incident report.

Dr. Carol Terry, Gwinnett County’s chief medical examiner, testified that the cause of death could not be determined due to decomposition of the body, according to WXIA-TV.

Bryant’s gun was found near Morales’ remains, the Gwinnett County police said at the time. On the night she was reported missing, the then-officer with the Doraville Police Department had made a report to Gwinnett County police that someone had gone into his truck and stolen his wallet and handgun, according to a police incident report. He was arrested in February 2023 on charges of concealing the death of another and false report of a crime in connection with Morales’ death.

According to an arrest warrant cited by Atlanta News First, police said that Bryant lived “in close proximity to the victim” at the time of the killing “and dumped her naked body in the woods.”

Speaking at Bryant’s trial, Avyonne Smyre, his ex-girlfriend, told the court that she and Bryant had gotten into an argument on the night of Morales’ disappearance. She testified that she noticed suspicious scratches on his truck, WXIA reported.

Since her disappearance was reported, Morales’ family has demanded justice, saying that police ignored their initial fears for her safety and wrote her off as a runaway.

“Throughout the entire investigation, the police dismissed us and said that she was a runaway when we knew she would never do that,” Morales’ sister wrote in a now-deleted online petition. “How could she run away when she was on her way home?”

On Tuesday, Gwinnett Police Detective Angela Carter testified that Bryant’s cellphone data revealed that he was in the area where Morales’ body was dumped on the night she went missing, according to reports by Atlanta’s WSB-TV.

Carter also said Bryant had conducted several internet searches related to Morales’ disappearance, including one using the phrase “How long does it take a body to decompose?” according to WSB-TV.

“He took his power, and he took his badge, and he used that to murder. He is a cop turned killer,” prosecuting attorney Brandon Delfunt told the court in his closing argument Wednesday, according to WXIA.

Tracy Drake, Bryant’s defense attorney, did not immediately respond to an email from HuffPost asking for a statement.

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