It’s been nearly six months since Quawan “Bobby” Charles, a 15-year old Black boy, was found dead in a Louisiana sugar cane field under suspicious circumstances.
He was discovered lying face down in a shallow marsh with half his face ripped off on Nov. 3. He’d gone missing from his father’s Baldwin, Louisiana, home four days prior.
A woman who has been at the center of the investigation in the slain teen’s mysterious disappearance was recently released from jail, according to reports from KLFY-10.
Janet Irvin on April 15 drew breath as a free woman for the first time in over two months. She was released on $90,000 bond, two days after 16th Judicial District Judge Anthony Seleme reduced her surety from the original bond amount of $400,000.
“Our family is outraged,” his first cousin, Celina Charles, told the TV station. “Quawan is dead. He was murdered.”
The 37-year-old woman was one of the last people to see Charles alive and admitted to private investigators that she failed to report him missing for at least a day after he vanished from her custody.
Iberia Parish deputies arrested Irvin in neighboring Lafayette Parish on Feb. 9 and charged her with failure to report a missing child and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. She’d been behind bars since then.
The Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate Charles’ death as a homicide.
Charles’ family members have long suspected foul play factored in the teen’s death. They’ve mounted protests and sustained public pressure, demanding investigators get to the bottom of what happened during his final days.
Ronald Haley, who’s part of the team of attorneys now representing Charles’ loved ones, said news of Irvin’s release did not discourage his family members.
“We understand that everyone’s entitled to due process. So she’s entitled to her day in court and she’s entitled to bond,” Haley told Atlanta Black Star. “Of course the family is disappointed, but not deterred. What they want is the truth. Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to. Any step in the direction to get the truth as to what happened to their loved one is all that they’re asking for at this point.”
As part of the conditions the judge set for her release, Irvin must wear a ankle monitor and live at her boyfriend’s home. She’s only allowed to leave the Youngsville, Louisiana, residence for court, work, or medical purposes, according to Seleme’s order.
Surveillance footage showed Irvin and her 17-year-old son pick Charles up from his father’s home the afternoon of Oct. 30. The three took off in a pickup truck and Irvin took Charles back to her family’s rural mobile home in Loureauville, about 25 miles away, without getting permission from the teen’s parents or even notifying them. He partied with her son, who admitted that they smoked marijuana together.
Charles’ parents reported him missing that evening after he vanished from his father’s home without a trace. He was found lying face down in a Loureauville ditch within walking distance of Irvin’s home Nov. 3. A gruesome photo of his mutilated face was taken by family members at the morgue days later. It went viral on social media. The image showed Charles’ scarred skin, with portions of his flesh ripped away, baring his teeth.
The coroner determined the disfigurement was done by “aquatic animals” gnawing on the 15-year-old’s face submerged in the shallow marsh after he died.
Irvin has been a key figure in the family’s quest for answers. They celebrated when she was arrested and continue to hope more information springs loose as her case unfolds.
“What we would hope is that the fact that she has to go through the process of the criminal justice system, that potentially she will speak as to what she knows,” Haley said. “We hold very firmly that Janet Irvin knows more than what she has given thus far. That she knows more than just the fact that she waited a day and a half to call the police about this missing child. We believe that the reason for that delay has to do with what she knows. And that has not come out yet. So we’re hopeful that we can get closer to filling in the missing pieces of this very difficult puzzle that has baffled the family and baffled the community.”
The Charles family hired a private investigator who questioned Irvin. The woman told the investigator Charles stormed out of her trailer and told her son he was going to kill himself days before he was found dead. Irvin said she was away from home at the time picking up her boyfriend. She said she searched for Charles briefly after she arrived back home, but soon figured he’d called for a ride home and stopped. She never alerted Charles’ parents and didn’t notify authorities until Nov. 2, more than a day after she lost track of him.
“Yes, I should’ve called the cops. I should’ve went further,” Irvin conceded, according to an audio recording of her interview with the private investigator.
Haley still seemed perplexed at how Charles could’ve drowned in such a shallow pond, as the medical examiner concluded in his autopsy. The Baton Rouge attorney noted that toxicology reports ruled out hallucinogens in Charles’ blood, which leads him to believe the teen couldn’t have passed out face down in the ditch and died.
“It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “So it just baffles me that he had no other medical condition. He didn’t have an enlarged heart, he didn’t have an aneurism, his organs were intact. They were healthy, they were functioning.
“And he happened to pass out right there? I don’t know, it’s just strange,” Haley continued. “But I still do believe that Janet holds a big piece of this puzzle as it relates to what happened to Quawan. What made him leave if he did leave their presence? And we hope we get to the truth of that.”