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Woman facing charges after missing teen found dead in Louisiana sugar cane field

Woman arrested in Quawan Charles case
Woman arrested in Quawan Charles case 01:44

A Louisiana woman was charged Tuesday in connection to the death of Quawan "Bobby" Charles, a Black teen whose body was found in a sugar cane field in November. Janet Irvin, 37, faces charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and failure to report a missing child, according to the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office.

The 15-year-old was allegedly picked up outside of his father's Baldwin, Louisiana, home on October 30 by two people, who Charles' family has said were Irvin and her 17-year-old son. Charles' parents said that at the time, they didn't know the woman or her son and never consented to him leaving with them. 

Police had previously released a video showing the moment they said Charles voluntarily left his home with the two people. The video appears to show someone sitting on the edge of a road in front of a home as a silver car drives by. The person then started running after the car, and the car returned to the home soon after. Police said three people, including Charles, got out of the car and went into the backyard before returning to the car and driving away.

The family has alleged that police brushed off their concerns when they first reported Charles missing, speculating he was at a football game. Police said in a statement Tuesday that they were not notified of Charles' disappearance until the afternoon of November 3. Charles was found dead later that night in a drainage ditch at a sugar cane field in Loreauville, 30 minutes from his home.

janet-irvin-booking-photo-horizontal.jpg
Janet Irvin seen in a booking photo released on Tuesday, February 9, 2021, by the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana.  

Attorneys for Charles' family told CBS News in December that they had obtained an audio recording in which a woman they say is Irvin admitted to not calling the police right after he ran away from her home. 

"Yes, I should have called the cops. I should have went further," a woman can be heard saying on the recording.

The family also alleged that Irvin's son told a private investigator that he and Charles did drugs at Irvin's home.

"Did he smoke something, or did he, I mean...?" the investigator can be heard asking.

"Yeah, he smoked some weed. That was it," a man replied. 

Ronald Haley and Chase Trichell, attorneys for the Charles family, believed at the time that there was enough evidence to arrest Irvin on "a slew of charges." It was their private investigator who recorded the conversation.

"She knew something was wrong and did nothing," Haley told CBS News in December. "It speaks volumes as to what her involvement was in this case."

The sheriff's office said at the time that it did not know about the recording, and the information was not shared.

New audio in Quawan Charles case 03:04

The local organization Stand Black called Irvin's arrest a step toward justice, according to CBS Lafayette, Louisiana, affiliate KLFY-TV.

"Today is a starting point, but this is a marathon and not a sprint," said Stand Black co-founder Jamal Taylor. "Now we must mobilize to change laws that protect against these sorts of atrocities. We must pass legislation that protects children, and laws that reform police accountability."

The Charles' family lawyers issued a statement on Tuesday, saying, "We will continue to fight, we will continue to advocate for Quawan's family and we will work tirelessly in our pursuit of justice, transparency and accountability."

In October, Charles' family said they believed police didn't take his disappearance seriously because he was Black. There was no Amber Alert after he was reported missing, but police have claimed that "all procedures were followed." 

"People are angry. People are upset," Charles' cousin Celina Charles told "CBS This Morning" national correspondent Jericka Duncan at the time.

In an earlier interview with KLFY, Baldwin assistant police Chief Samuel Wise said there was no evidence that Charles was abducted or that an Amber Alert was necessary.

Questions in missing Louisiana teen's death 03:56

The coroner's office at the time had said the teen likely drowned and had no injuries before his death. They also ruled the wounds on his face happened after his death and were likely caused by aquatic animals.

On February 5, a forensic autopsy report indicated that there were no signs of a struggle prior to Charles' drowning, but it stopped short of declaring how he drowned. "It is possible that the decedent was hallucinating due to psychosis, which led to disorientation which led to an accidental drowning," the autopsy report said. "The alleged circumstance of saying he was going to kill himself, and the lack of injuries, suggests suicide may be the manner of death."

But in a statement responding to that report, attorneys for Charles' family said that the only "reasonable conclusion" is that Charles' death was a homicide. "The only rational, glaringly obvious conclusion here is that there was foul play at work here," the statement read.

Irvin remains at the Iberia Parish jail. A judge on Wednesday set her bond at $400,000 for the two charges. Police said the investigation into Charles' death continues and more arrests may come.

Jericka Duncan contributed to this report.

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