HAZLEHURST, GA (WTOC) - A neighbor's home security video shows Chandler Johnson, 15, getting in a red Chevy Beretta with body damage on the day he disappeared from his mother's home. They contend the video matches the car driven by James Carter, a former boyfriend of Chandler's mom. Larry Rea, Johnson's maternal grandfather, suspected Carter after Chandler disappeared Sept. 25.
"I said it from the beginning, that was the first name that came out of my mouth. That was the first one we sent the sheriff's deputies after. The first name and it never left me," said Rea, with whom the grandson lived.
Police and sheriff's deputies spent more than a week looking for Johnson as a potential runaway because, they said, they had no evidence to tie anyone to him or any physical harm.
"They thought he was a runaway, but I knew different," Larry commented.
A security video changed the investigator's direction. They, along with the mother's neighbor, thought the video of that day had been lost to a storm-related power surge. But repairs to the system restored the video on Sunday.
"That's when we went back to him (Carter) to ask more questions," explained Jeff David County Sheriff Richard Deas.
When investigators confronted Carter with the video, his story changed, they contend. They said he confessed and even brought them to where he buried the body, in some woods next to the cemetery where his own son is buried.
"He has given us some general information on his assault on Chandler and his death," explained Hazlehurst Police chief Steve Land. But nothing in the way of a motive.
According to Land, Carter said he and Johnson spent a couple of hours riding before he killed and buried the teen. Rea said his pain causes him to worry for other teens like Chandler.
Everybody watch their kids, know where they're at and what they're doing.
Carter is jailed outside Jeff Davis County, but could appear before a magistrate judge as early as Friday.