ATLANTA — Investigators aren’t sure how or why a Gwinnett County teenager was killed. But they feel certain a former police officer is responsible.
“What we do know is she died at the hands of Miles Bryant,” Gwinnett police Chief J.D. McClure said Wednesday during a news conference.
Bryant, a former Doraville police officer, has been charged with murder and kidnapping in the death of 16-year-old Susana Morales. Bryant was previously charged with concealing the teenager’s body. On Wednesday, Gwinnett police said investigators now believe Bryant killed Morales after kidnapping her.
Morales, a junior at Meadowcreek High School, went missing on the evening of July 26. By the time her family reported her missing the next morning, Morales was likely already dead, police said Wednesday.
But the teen’s disappearance remained a mystery until earlier this month, when her remains were found more than 20 miles from where she was last seen. A cause of death has not been determined, police said Wednesday.
Investigators also found a personal gun that belonged to Miles: the same gun he had reported stolen, police said. Authorities don’t believe Bryant shot Morales, but the gun helped link him to the case.
Bryant was arrested Feb. 13 and fired the same day. He remained Wednesday in the Gwinnett jail, where he is being held without bond.
A warrant application after Bryant’s initial arrest stated he “lives in close proximity to victim and dumped her naked body in the woods.” But the family of Morales said Bryant was a stranger to them.
The teen’s mother, Maria Bran, spoke to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after her daughter’s body was found.
“I’m sad,” Bran said in an interview at her Norcross home. “I know where she is now. It’s not the same anguish anymore. Now it’s just the pain of not knowing how much she suffered before she died. It’s a pain that will never go away.”
A popular teenager, Morales played the piano and guitar, and loved to do her makeup, her mother said. She wanted to be a detective one day.
The family immigrated to the United States from Mexico nearly 24 years ago hoping to raise children in a country with more opportunities, said Bran, who does not speak English.
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