The GBI on Friday issued another appear for information into the murders of two Rome women on May 12-13. The bodies of Vanita Richardson and Truvenia Campbell were found on May 13 below a bridge near the Etowah River off the Bypass. Two Rome men have been jailed on charges related to the case but have not been charged with their deaths, according to earlier reports from the agency. Both men, Desmond Lavonta Brown, age 28, and Devin Lashawn Watts, age 36, remained in the Floyd County Jail on Friday afternoon. Anyone with information is ask to call: 800-597-8477.
The search also continues for Vanita Richardson’s vehicle:
- 1997 gold Toyota Corolla
- GA license plate RTJ6295
A day after joining the ceremony for what would have been Vanita Richardson’s graduation from Armuchee High School, family and friends gathered again on Sunday to bury the 18-year-old.
The service conducted by Wright Memorial Mortuary was at 2 p.m. Sunday and was invitation only. But as has been the practice in recent months, the funeral home did provide a Facebook Live video of the emotional — even powerful — service that is available by clicking Vanita.
Nearly 37 minutes long, the graveside service includes prayers, preaching and a memorial performance. Those in attendance all wore masks.
The audio is hard to hear so please adjust your volume on your computer. The video has been viewed more than 14,000 times since Sunday.
It was a bittersweet moment during Saturday’s drive-through graduation ceremony at Armuchee High School as the family of Vanita Richardson came to honor the memory of the 18-year-old who was graduate with the Class of 2020. A moment of silence was held in Richardson’s memory, as the school’s staff and administration presented the family with flowers and Richardson’s diploma. Photos courtesy of Floyd County Schools.
From Sunday morning: Two Rome men Desmond Lavonta Brown, age 28, and Devin Lashawn Watts, age 36, remain jailed in Floyd County on Sunday morning on various drugs and weapons charges and are being held “in connection with” the continuing investivation into the May 12 murders of Richardson and Truvenia Campbell, 30. Brown was arrested Thursday by the GBI on charges of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of cocaine, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and possession of marijuana of less than an ounce. Watts is charged with theft of receiving stolen property and possession of a firearm by convicted felon, according to the GBI.
Midday Friday from the GBI:
On May 21, 2020, Desmond Lavonta Brown, age 28, was rearrested by the GBI on charges of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of cocaine, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and possession of marijuana of less than an ounce. This arrest comes after also being arrested on May 20, 2020 in Bartow County by the U.S. Marshals’s Service and the Bartow/Cartersville Drug Task Force on charges of possession of over an ounce of marijuana. He remains in custody in Floyd County Jail.
From Hometown, Friday morning:
Brown also was arrested by the GBI on Monday on misdemeanor obstruction of a police officer charges and bonded out of the Floyd County Jail. He remained there Friday morning as several counts preclude bond.
Brown and Devin Lashawn Watts, age 36, were included in a Wednesday media release from the GBI about their arrests with investigators saying both were being held “in connection with” the continuing investigation into the May 12 murders of Vanita Richardson, 18, and Truvenia Campbell, 30. Watts was charged with theft of receiving stolen property and possession of a firearm by convicted felon, according to the GBI. Arrested Tuesday per jail records. He remained in the county jail Friday morning.
From the GBI, Friday midday: Vanita Richardson’s vehicle has not been located. Anyone with information pertaining to this case should contact the GBI tipline at 1-800-597-TIPS (8477).
From the Georgia Bureau of Investigation:
“GBI investigators are seeking assistance in the Rome homicide investigation. The above vehicle is the same make, model and color of one that belonged to the victim ,Vanita Richardson. The investigation has shown that both Vanita Richardson and Truvenia Campbell were in this vehicle during the evening hours of Tuesday, May 12, 2020. The vehicle’s location is not known at this time but investigators believe that it could be somewhere in metro Atlanta. Anyone with information concerning this vehicle or the investigation, please contact the GBI tipline at 1-800-597-8477. “
- 1997 Toyota Corolla
- Gold in color
- Georgia license plate: RTJ6295
Amurchee High to remember Vanita Richardson: Armuchee’s drive-through graduation is set for 10 a.m. Saturday. Missing from the car line will be senior Vanita Richardson, who was murdered last week in a double homicide that remains under investigation by the GBI. The plan for Saturday is as follows: AHS will honor her with a 30-second moment of silence at the beginning of the pre-recorded speeches that will air 30 minutes prior to the drive-through ceremony’s start.
In context: A week after the bodies of Vanita Richardson and Truvenia Campbell were found tossed from a bridge on the Bypass, two Rome men have been charged with obstruction or receiving stolen property and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, according to the GBI. So far, there are no additional details on possible connections to the double homicide.
From the GBI: The following individuals have been arrested in connection with the double homicide investigation in Rome:
- Desmond Lavonta Brown, age 28, charge – misdemeanor obstruction of a police officer. Arrested Monday by the GBI per Floyd County Jail records.
- Devin Lashawn Watts, age 36, charges – theft of receiving stolen property; possession of a firearm by convicted felon. Arrested Tuesday per jail records.
These arrests were the results of search warrants executed on apartments and vehicles based on leads that were developed and tips received from the GBI Tip Line. This investigation remains active and ongoing. Anyone with information pertaining to this this case is urged to contact the GBI at 1-800-597-TIPS (8477).
Update: Brown was released on bond while Watts remains held at the county jail on Wednesday afternoon.
- Funeral services for Vanita Richardson will be private and by invitation, according to an updated listing on the Wright Memorial Mortuary website. An online donation account also has been created to help pay funeral expenses; click here for details. Services for Truvenia Campbell also will be private.
- Monday night, during the Rome City Commission meeting, Mayor Bill Collins took a few minutes to talk about the crime with colleagues and to offer the family and friends his support. Collins says he has confidence law enforcement will ensure justice is done.
The remains of Vanita Richardson and Truvenia Campbell were found May 13 off the Rome Bypass near the Etowah River bridge. The GBI is continues the search for Richardson’s 1997 Gold Toyota Corolla in which both girls were in during the evening hours of Tuesday, May 12. Investigators believe that it could be somewhere in metro Atlanta. See details below.
On Saturday, Richardson’s mother, Vanita Allen, spoke with WSB-TV Channel 2 about her daughter, says “she was an angel”. WSB-TV. She recalls seeing her daughter out the door Tuesday evening, leaving with perhaps with Campbell. Also, an online fund has been created by an Armuchee woman to help Allen with Vanita’s funeral expenses. Through early Sunday, nearly $4,000 of the $10,000 goal had been raised.
Preliminary obituaries are posted on the website of Wright Memorial Mortuary. Services for Vanita, 18, and Truvenia, 30, are pending. Vanita’s family has shared on Facebook that it will be a small, invitation-only service because of regulations in place from the coronavirus pandemic:
Truvenia Clarece “Bean” Campbell, March 8, 1989-May 12, 2020.
Vanita Richardson, Nov. 8, 2001-May 12, 2020.
GBI agents continue to ask for help in solving a double homicide that apparently took place on Tuesday.
The GBI confirmed the sisters were homicide victims; no specific causes of death were released. Investigators also asked for assistance from anyone who might have spotted suspicous activity along the Bypass south of Grizzard Park between Tuesday night and early Wednesday.
“If you were traveling in that area and saw anything suspicious between Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. and Wednesday at 11 a.m., investigators need your help. Please contact the GBI at 1-800-597-TIPS (8477) with any information pertinent to the investigation,” according to a news release from the agency.
FROM MAY 15:
This was supposed to be a happy time for Vanita as this week marked the start of graduation season at Armuchee High. A virtual awards ceremony was held Monday night and the school’s “drive through” graduation is set for Saturday, May 23, at 10 a.m. An in-person service remains scheduled for July 23 at the Forum River Center.
For now, her classmates are left to mourning. Floyd County Schools shared this note on Wednesday:
“We are deeply saddened and heartbroken by the news of the death of one of our students, Vanita Richardson, who was scheduled to graduate next Saturday. We extend our deepest sympathies to the Armuchee Community and her friends and family at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. Vanita will be remembered for being a fun-loving, humble, and motivated student who was making strong plans for her future. Even throughout the school closures, Vanita’s passing is felt by all. In particular, the staff members whose lives she touched with her caring personality and big heart. The Armuchee High social worker and counselor will be available for virtual grief and loss counseling sessions. Students who are interested should email them directly.”
As the GBI continues the investigation into their deaths, Rome and Floyd County residents are mourning the loss of an Armuchee High graduate and her 30-year-old sister.
Wednesday night, the Facebook pages of Vanita Richardson, believed to be 18, and her sister Truvenia Campbell were filled with stunned reaction and tributes. Among the items posted: A photograph believed taken just days ago, Mother’s Day, of the pair.
The victims were officially identified Thursday morning by Floyd County Chief Deputy Coroner Connie Chandler as Vanita Richardson, 19, and Clarese Truvenia Campbell, age 30.
Their bodies were found by a state Department of Transportation crew doing maintenance work on the bridge leading to the Etowah River below Grizzard Park. Both were found with bags over their heads. Their bodies were hoisted from the wetlands to the bridge and then taken to the Floyd County Morgue before autopsies were completed at the GBI crime lab.
- Fox 5 Atlanta recaps the case and the recovery of the bodies. Fox 5
In a year already marred by canceled in-school classes and the loss of many of the amenities enjoyed by seniors, Vanita’s classmates and friends are leaving photographs and notes on her Facebook page recalling times together. One after another expressed shock. They talk about working together at an Armuchee fast-food restaurant or gathering on Harper Street in South Rome where the young lady would block traffic as she shared a story with friends.
Others writing on Truvenia’s page told of her recent birthday and her desire to go “clubbing” in Atlanta to celebrate.
We’ll have additional updates throughout the day on the investigation and what’s next.
The GBI confirms it has been “requested by the Rome Police Department to investigate the deaths of two individuals. Agents are on scene at Loop 1 at Etowah Bridge gathering information,” according to a statement from the state agency around 12:30 p.m. Two deputy coroners were on the way to the scene at 12:30 p.m.
What we know:
- Both Rome Police and the Floyd County Police Department responded to the scene around 11:15 this morning. Varying, unconfirmed reports were two bodies had been found, both female. It was determined Rome Police had jurisdiction and officers, in turn, summoned the GBI.
- Georgia DOT crews already were working in the area. One lane of traffic had been closed as the work continued. The GBI reports the DOT crew spotted the bodies. They later were hoisted from the under the bridge and taken to the nearby Floyd County Morgue.