Quawan Charles was a high school sophomore who looked younger than his decade-and-a-half age. Although this tragedy is spreading across social media posts as the story of “Bobby” Charles, only his mother and close family members called him by that nickname before he disappeared.
But if Quawan had just disappeared, he would be known as a “missing child.” Quawan’s parents didn’t give him permission to leave home, which may lead people to call him a “runaway.” The strange gaps in this case, including the fact that Quawan’s bedroom was reportedly locked from the inside, might even make some people refer to Quawan’s story as a “mystery.”
But Quawan Charles is not missing nor did he vanish. Even though no one has been arrested, what happened to Quawan Charles isn’t even a mystery. His family knows where he was. His family is reportedly aware of who he left with. His family knows where he is.
Fifteen-year-old Quawan Charles is dead.
And still, no one knows what happened...
Well...almost no one.
Around 3 p.m. on October 30, Roxanne Nelson called her son Quawan and received no answer. Quawan had recently moved in with his father in Baldwin, La., a tiny town of about 2,500 roughly 39 miles from Roxanne’s home in Youngsville.
Roxanne was perplexed. Quawan couldn’t stop talking about how he wanted to grow his hair out and had asked her to take him to get a lineup. So why wasn’t he answering the phone like he usually did?
When she reached out to Quawan’s father, Kenneth Jacko, Kenny checked the door to his son’s bedroom and knocked. No answer. But you know how teenagers are—Quawan was probably asleep. Or maybe he was on those headphones. Or, perhaps, he was just being Quawan.
“He was always to himself,” Quawan’s cousin and family spokesperson Celina Charles told The Root. “He didn’t really talk much. He basically stayed to himself.”
Kenny was sure Quawan would reply soon. He wanted that haircut. Roxanne called again. Nothing. After a little coercing, She convinced Kenny to just go into Quawan’s room but the door was locked from the inside. By the time Kenny managed to open the door, he was ready to give Quawan a piece of his mind. There was just one problem:
Quawan was gone.
Roxanne rushed to Baldwin. On her way to Kenny’s house, she flagged down a Baldwin police officer and told him that their teenager had gone missing. The officer gave a curious response.
“They brushed her off,” Charles family attorney Ronald Haley told The Root. “They told her things such as ‘Look, he’s probably at a football game; He’s probably with some friends.’ Basically, don’t worry about it.”
Roxanne continued to tell law enforcement officers that something was wrong, but according to Haley: “They just kept on getting collective indifference from, from law enforcement.”
“And then the next night went by—still no Bobby,” Celina recounted. “The first went by. No Bobby. So on the second, they got to the point where they decided to go out and try to find some answers.”
After three days of searching, one of Quawan’s friends mentioned that he last saw the teenager in the car with a white lady and her teenage son, which they passed along to the police department, who were beginning to take the youngster’s disappearance seriously.
The mother of the teenage son admitted that she picked Quawan up to “go hang out with her son,” but after that, she doesn’t know what happened, according to investigators hired by the family. Neither Quawan’s mom or dad had ever met this 17-year-old son or his mother according to The Root’s interviews with Quawan’s family members and attorneys.
“She was very coy in regards to what happened with Bobby after they picked him up,” said Haley. “But we know Bobby didn’t tell his father that he was leaving.”
On Nov. 3, police informed the family that they had found Quawan’s body in a creek near a wooded area in Baldwin. The family says authorities told them that Quawan had drowned. But gruesome pictures (warning: explicit) taken by the family seem to reveal a mutilated body.
“We think that he was tortured because his mouth,” Celina said. “It doesn’t even look like Quawan has a mouth anymore. We think that he was hit in the head. We don’t know if he’d been shot.”
So who would know what happened?
Well, someone does.
The family shared with The Root a recording of an anonymous woman who called Roxanne Nelson with information that the mother who allegedly picked up Quawan may know more than she has divulged.
The caller claimed that she randomly confronted her son about his unusual behavior and he revealed that something had been “eating him up.” Allegedly, the white family who picked up Quawan may have been high on mushrooms and the son reported that the car curiously smelled like bleach. In any case, the son reportedly admitted to being introduced to Quawan on the day he went missing.
The Baldwin Police Department has passed the case along to the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Department, neither of which answered The Root’s requests for comment. To be fair, they also haven’t answered most of the Charles family’s questions either.
For instance, When Celina contacted the media to let them know that they were holding a community vigil for the missing child, the local news outlets replied: “What missing child?”
The Root spoke to two nearby news outlets, and both acknowledged that they hadn’t received an Amber Alert or a media request from police during the entire time Quawan was missing. In fact, the only information they had received from BPD about the case was after Quawan’s body had been found. And curiously, the family, the media and the press release all received different dates for when they discovered the teen’s body.
On Tuesday, the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office released this statement:
The Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Investigation continues to investigate the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of a male juvenile, who was discovered by Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office Patrol Deputies on November 3, 2020 near the village of Loreauville.
Investigators have interviewed multiple individuals and collected physical evidence which is being processed. An autopsy has been performed and the results are pending as of this time. Investigators have updated the parents of the juvenile concerning the status of the investigation and will continue to do so throughout the investigation.
Anyone with information concerning this death is urged to contact Detective Jarred Spurlock of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Investigation at 337-369-3711
Of course, everyone has the right to remain silent.
But someone had to say something.
“We have dealt with several of these cases and each of them involve some sort of policing that has caused irreparable harm, loss of life, injury to an individual,” local activist Jamaal Taylor said. “The problem is, when these police officers see our children, they don’t see theirs.
Taylor, whose organization, Stand Black, was contacted by the family and was the first to bring attention to Quawan’s case, partly blames police indifference for the Charles family’s loss, explaining that this is the most literal example of Black lives not mattering to law enforcement.
“If Quawan was a little white girl, Louisiana would be turned upside down right now trying to figure out what happened,” Taylor told The Root. “We want the officers involved that took no action placed on leave. We need an investigation into what happened and why they failed to issue an Amber alert at the time of the report of this young man going missing. And, more importantly, why they blew it off and told the parents to go look for the child at a football game.”
Stand Black has planned a protest and vigil for Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the Iberia Parish Courthouse in New Iberia, La. Meanwhile, the family has ordered their own autopsy and are still searching for answers. But according to co-attorney Chase Trichell, the Iberia Parish sheriff is sticking with the drowning story.
“We just want to know what happened,” Trichell told The Root. “No one has been arrested. They won’t even say if they have suspects. Even if the Iberia Sheriff doesn’t have answers, at least they can tell us where to start asking questions.”
So far, no one has been arrested or charged in Quawan Charles’ death. The Baldwin Police Department admits to handling the missing person case while the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office is handling the rest of the investigation. Katherine Breaux, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, told The Advocate his parents were “aware that he went to someone’s house in Loreauville.”
They were not.
Instead, the family is left with a number of questions:
- When did Quawan die?
- What was the cause of his death?
- Exactly where did authorities find his body?
- How did he end up in a creek? (The family told The Root that Quawan could not swim.)
- Was he still alive during the family’s search?
- Why didn’t the Baldwin Police Department alert the media?
“They will not tell us anything, Celina Charles added. “If they talked to the [family last seen with Quawan], they hadn’t told us anything. We don’t know how they found Quawan. Was he naked or was he dressed? Did he have his phone on him? All we know is that they found him face down in a Creek, in a field. We don’t know what happened.”
“I mean...that’s all we got right now,” she said, before quietly adding:
“Knowing is all we got.”