By Natasha Cobos | Staff Writer
At about 9:40 p.m. July 26, 2022, 16-year-old Susana Morales went missing in the area of Singleton Road in Norcross after calling her mother to say she was headed home.
The Meadowcreek High School student never made it there and was reported missing the following morning. The Gwinnett Police Department regarded her as a runaway and had reason to think she traveled away from the area in a vehicle.
Several months later, on Feb. 8, human remains were found nearly 20 miles away in the area of Ga. Highway 316 between Drowning Creek and the Barrow County line. Those remains were confirmed to be Morales’, and a suspect was arrested later that day. Norcross resident Miles Bryant, 22, who is a former police officer for Doraville, was initially charged with concealing her death and later charged with felony murder and kidnapping. He remains in the Gwinnett County Jail.
There was no known prior relationship between Morales and Bryant. However, Bryant’s apartment complex, Wyndham Village, is the area where the teen’s cell phone was located when she contacted her mother on the evening of July 26. Bryant’s unit overlooked the Morales family home, and police noted they think she got into someone’s vehicle shortly after the text was sent.
Other corresponding points in the Morales disappearance timeline include Bryant reporting his police-issued weapon missing at 11 a.m. the morning after the teen’s disappearance. The firearm was later found with Morales’ body.
Additionally, WSB reported that on Dec. 11, 2022, a former friend of Bryant’s reported he had been harassing and stalking her for over a year — but the case was not assigned to an investigator.
WSB had additional reports of the suspect’s strange behavior that have come to light following the discovery of Morales’ remains, including threatening and dangerous behavior reported by both civilians and Bryant’s colleagues.
The Morales case has sparked many questions, the main being why did it take so long to find her?
While there are many complexities when it comes to missing persons cases, one local mother and member of the Hispanic community who wishes to remain anonymous says, “Hispanics aren’t being heard or taken seriously. No one cares about the Latino community. It’s not fair.”
In addition to Susana Morales’ case, many other young teens remain missing or have open cases quickly getting cold, bringing concerns to the minds of parents all across metro Atlanta. Gwinnett police are defending accusations on social media that they have mishandled the case, with Master Police Officer Hideshi Valle stating, “Our detectives have continuously worked on Susana Morales’ case since we received it.” He went on to say, “At times there were no leads in the case. At those times, we requested the public’s help in providing information via our social media and local media.”
The Hispanic community has chosen to stand up in protest in light of Morales’ case, as well as those of 24-year-old Selena Garcia, who has been missing since October from Norcross, and 16-year-old Rodrigo Floriano Mayan, also of Meadowcreek High School who was found deceased in Tucker on Feb. 6. The Hispanic United Alliance claims police do not take their cases seriously, with about 50 people gathering in protest outside the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center last week. The department refutes these accusations, with Chief J.D. McClure stating, “As a department, we are committed to serving our community through the delivery of professional law enforcement services in an unbiased and compassionate manner.”
Gwinnett County police urge members of the public to reach out with any details in the cases mentioned previously by calling 770-513-5300 or Crime Stoppers Greater Atlanta at 404-577-8477.
FEATURED PHOTO: Susana Morales, 16, a Norcross teen, went missing in July 2022 and her remains were found near Ga. Highway 316 in February. Special photo.