A former police officer has been accused of kidnapping and murdering a teenage girl while working as a cop.
Miles Bryant, 22, had his charges upgraded after he was originally accused of concealing the death of 16-year-old Susana Morales.
The action was taken after a gun reported missing by Bryant was found near the skeletal remains of her body, officers said.
The new charges were revealed on Wednesday, Feb. 22, after the discovery of the “critical” evidence.
Detectives’ focus shifted to Bryant, who worked for Doraville Police Department in Georgia, US, after Susana’s body was discovered in Gwinnett County earlier this month.
Her body was discovered near Highway 316 between Drowning Creek and the Barrow County line.
Now, the further discovery of a handgun, described by police as a “critical piece of evidence” by officers, “in close proximity” to the body, has led to more serious charges against Bryant.
When probed about Susana’s’ cause of death, Gwinnett County Police Chief James. D. McClure said: “We don’t definitively know.
“We’re still investigating. What we do know is she died at the hands of Miles Bryant.”
Doraville Police Department fired Bryant immediately after this arrest.
The teen had been reported missing since late July 2022, when she seemingly vanished while walking home.
Susana texted her mum on the evening of July 26 and cops speculate that she died between 10pm that evening and 2am on July 27.
Her naked body was discovered on Feb 6, 2023, about 20 miles away from where she was last seen alive.
Although suspected of sexual assault, according to the arrest warrant, Bryant is yet to be charged with any sex crime.
It is not currently known whether Morales and Bryant were acquainted.
However, “it’s entirely possible” that Bryant had been watching Susana before her death, Police Chief McClure said.
A statement from Doraville Police Department on February 14 read: “The City of Doraville was notified the afternoon of Monday, February 13 that a now former police officer was being served felony arrest warrants by the Gwinnett Police Department in connection with the disappearance and murder of Susana Morales.
“The City of Doraville and its Police Department are fully cooperating with the Gwinnett Police Department in its investigation of Mr. Bryant.
“Our prayers rest with the family and friends of Susana Morales and everyone else affected by this tragedy.”
McClure said Susana’s death was “an unspeakable tragedy”.
He added: “This type of crime at the hands of a law enforcement officer evokes anger, even within the ranks of this agency,” McClure said. “Police officers should always be pillars of trust.”