A Louisiana woman was charged Tuesday in connection with the death of Quawan “Bobby” Charles, a black teenager 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 failing to report the disappearance of a child, according to the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.
The 15-year-old was allegedly picked up outside his father’s home in Baldwin, Louisiana, on October 30 by two people, who according to Charles’s family were Irvin and his 17-year-old son. Charles’s parents said they did not know the woman or their son at the time and never consented to his leaving with them.
The police had previously posted a video showing the moment when they said that Charles voluntarily left home with the two people. The video appears to show someone sitting on the side of a road in front of a house as a silver car passes. The person then started running after the car, and the car returned to the house shortly after. Police said three people, including Charles, got out of the car and into the backyard before getting back into the car and driving away.
The family has alleged that the police ignored their concerns when they first reported Charles missing, speculating that he was at a soccer game. Police said in a statement Tuesday that they were not notified of Charles’s disappearance until the afternoon of November 3. Charles was found dead that same night in a drainage ditch in a sugar cane field in Loreauville, 30 minutes from his home.
Attorneys for Charles’s family told CBS News in December that they had got an audio recording in which a woman they say is Irvin admitted that she didn’t call the police right after she ran away from her home.
“Yes, I should have called the police. I should have gone 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 were using drugs at Irvin’s home.
“Did he smoke something, or, I mean …?” the researcher can be heard asking.
“Yeah, he smoked some marijuana. That was it,” one man replied.
Ronald Haley and Chase Trichell, attorneys for the Charles family, believed at the time that there was sufficient evidence to arrest Irvin on “a number of charges.” It was his private investigator who recorded the conversation.
“She knew something was wrong and did nothing,” Haley told CBS News in December. “It says a lot about his involvement in this case.”
The sheriff’s office said at the time that it did not know about the recording and that the information was not shared.
Local organization Stand Black called Irvin’s arrest a step toward justice, according to KLFY-TV, an affiliate of CBS Lafayette, Louisiana.
“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 the laws that protect against these types of atrocities. We must pass laws that protect children and laws that reform policing.”
Attorneys for Charles’s family released a statement Tuesday, saying: “We will continue to fight, we will continue to advocate for the Quawan family, and we will work tirelessly in our pursuit of justice, transparency and accountability.”
In October, Charles’s family said they believed the police were not taking his disappearance seriously because he was black. There was no Amber Alert after her disappearance, but police have claimed that “all procedures were followed.”
“People are angry. People are angry,” Charles’s cousin Celina Charles told “CBS This Morning” national correspondent Jericka Duncan at the time.
In an earlier interview with KLFY, Baldwin Deputy Chief of Police Samuel Wise said there was no evidence that Charles was abducted or that an Amber Alert was necessary.
The coroner’s office at the time had said the teen likely drowned and had no injuries prior to his death. They also ruled that the injuries to his face occurred 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’s drowning, but did not go as far as to state how he drowned. “It is possible that the deceased was hallucinating due to psychosis, leading to disorientation leading to accidental drowning,” the autopsy report said. “The alleged circumstance of saying he was going to commit suicide, and the absence of injuries, suggests that suicide may be the form of death.
But in a statement in response to that report, attorneys for Charles’s family said the only “reasonable conclusion” is that Charles’s death was a homicide. “The only rational and obviously obvious conclusion here is that there was foul play at work here,” the statement said.
Irvin remains in the Iberia Parish jail. A judge on Wednesday set his bail at $ 400,000 for the two charges. Police said the investigation into Charles’s death is continuing and more arrests could result.
Jericka Duncan contributed to this report.