A Louisiana family’s quest for answers and demands for justice continue to fester.
It’s been more than 10 weeks since the body of Quawan Charles, a 15-year-old Black teen, was found in an empty sugar cane field near Loreauville, Louisiana. And his family’s efforts to learn exactly what happened to him haven’t waned.
Authorities are investigating Charles’ death as a homicide but have yet to indicate how the teen wound up face down in a shallow marsh nearly 25 miles from his family’s home with pieces of his face mutilated.
Several family members recently took their push to the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office’s doorstep, confronting the agency that’s leading the investigation, The Daily Iberian reported. The group demanded that deputies arrest one of the people who can likely provide some of the elusive answers.
“Right now, our main concern is Janet Irvin,” Charles’ cousin Celina Charles told Atlanta Black Star during a recent interview. “She’s the one that picked Quawan up.”
Irvin, a 37-year-old white woman, who was one of the last people to see Quawan alive. She and her 17-year-old son picked the teen up from his father’s Baldwin, Louisiana, home without his parents knowledge or permission on Oct. 30. Later that night, Quawan’s parents reported him missing. Four days later, Quawan was found dead under mysterious circumstances within walking distance of Irvin’s trailer home.
“We just want to see somebody held accountable,” Celina Charles said. “If it would have been a Black woman that went and picked up a white child, you know that they would be arrested already. This lady needs to be incarcerated. This lady needs to be arrested, she needs to be all charged and she needs to be convicted.”
Last month, attorneys for the Charles family released an audio recording that implicated Irvin. In it, the woman seemed to admit she knew about Quawan’s disappearance days before she reported him missing.
“Yes I should have called the cops. I should have went further,” she told a private investigator hired by the family’s legal team.
The recording shows Irvin admitting that she drove to Baldwin with her son and picked Quawan up after she got off work that day. He was visiting Irvin’s trailer because he was friends with her 17-year-old son. The two teens attended school together in Youngsville, Louisiana, where Quawan lived with his mother.
The private investigator also interviewed Irvin’s son, who said he and Quawan “smoked some weed” together on Oct. 30. A witness reportedly saw Quawan the following day walking to a fishing creek with Irvin’s son and another friend. At some point, however, he disappeared from the trailer home, family members said they’ve been told.
Irvin didn’t report Quawan missing until Nov. 2, two days after he vanished from her custody.
Celina Charles cited Louisiana’s reporting requirements, a state law that dictates child custodians have a responsibility to report missing children within two hours of not knowing their location and losing contact for a full day.
“She broke the law,” Charles said. “Why hasn’t she been arrested yet? I don’t care what they’re waiting on. There’s enough probable cause for Janet Irvin to be arrested.”
Ronald Haley Jr., one of the attorneys now representing family members, said he and his private investigator are scheduled Tuesday morning to meet with one of the Iberia Parish detectives investigating Quawan’s death.
The Charles family descended upon Sheriff’s Office headquarters on Jan. 4, the day after the two-month anniversary of Quawan’s death. Family members have described Quawan as a quiet teen who stayed out of trouble and loved to fish.
Jamal Taylor, a local civil rights activist, joined a group of grieving family members who staged in the lobby of the Sheriff’s Office, according to The Iberian. Video showed a nearly 20-minute exchange with Chief Deputy Richard Fleming and Katherine Breaux, the agency’s spokesperson. Fleming told the group that investigators were still awaiting toxicology results from Quawan’s autopsy.
Breaux did not respond to an email and phone call from Atlanta Black Star requesting an update on the investigation Thursday
Family and supporters hope their show of solidarity helps keep the public pressure on investigators to ensure the case doesn’t get swept under the rug.
“You have to keep pressure, because if you don’t it’s going to fade from public consciousness,” Haley said. “I think that has been one of the great things about the protests for social justice and change that have sparked this country, that it has not let up.”
Celina Charles reiterated family members’ belief that Irvin had something to do with Quawan’s death. But she said she wanted to know why the woman never contacted his parents before picking him up or after he went missing.
“There’s no reason she should have went and picked up Quawan without parental consent,” Celina Charles said. “She had knowledge that Quawan was missing. She knew this. … She knew that the police were looking for Quawan. She waited until the next day on her lunch break to contact law enforcement.”
Irvin’s family was evicted from their trailer home shortly after Quawan’s death. News reports also indicate she has an extensive history of drug, burglary and theft arrests.
Haley said his team’s private investigation has led them in the direction of Irvin, her son, her boyfriend, two other teens and the mother of one of those teens. He believes each of them have information about the fate that befell Quawan. Irvin’s arrest, he said, could compel them to come forward and tell investigators what they know.
“I think it’s the most important piece of the puzzle,” Haley said, “because I think that it’s the first domino. If and when it drops, hopefully then others that know the truth will come out and give it.”