GA v. Miles Bryant: Taken Teen Murder Trial

Posted at 7:41 AM, June 12, 2024

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (Court TV) — A former police officer accused of kidnapping and murdering a teenager was found guilty on four of the five counts he was charged with.

On Wednesday, Miles Bryant, 23, was convicted of malice murder, felony murder, kidnapping and concealing the death of another in the death of 16-year-old Susana Morales. He was also convicted of filing a false report over allegations he lied and said his gun had been stolen. Bryant was found not guilty of criminal attempt to commit rape.

Bryant was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

miles bryant mugshot

FILE – Miles Bryant (Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office)

On July 26, 2022, Morales was walking home from a friend’s apartment when she disappeared. Her remains were found nearly 20 miles away, months later, in Feb. 2023, WSB-TV reported. Bryant lived in the apartment complex and worked as a “courtesy officer” where Morales’ friend lived, according to WSB-TV. The two had no prior relationship.

According to police, Bryant falsely reported that his gun had been stolen from his unlocked personal vehicle on the same day Morales was reported missing, Fox News reported. Bryant’s gun was later found in the same wooded area where Morales’ naked body was discovered.

Bryant had worked as a police officer in Doraville but was fired immediately after he was arrested on Feb. 13. If convicted, Bryant faces a potential sentence of life in prison without parole.

Ahead of jury selection, Bryant rejected a plea offer from the prosecution, according to Fox News. The judge denied a defense motion for a mistrial during jury selection after one potential juror said she had heard “weird things” about the defendant.


DAY 6 – 6/12/24

DAY 5 – 6/11/24

  • Miles Bryant chose not to testify in his defense.
  • Internet searches revealed to the jury showed that Bryant conducted Google searches for “How long does it take a body to decompose?, and How are you ID by dental records?”
  • Bryant searched the database for license plate readers known as FLOCK and Vigilant to locate where his license plate was captured in Gwinnett County.
  • WATCH: Taken Teen Murder Trial: Prosecution Shows Critical Cell Phone Evidence

DAY 4 – 6/10/24

DAY 3 – 6/7/24

  • Jurors heard from Miles Bryant’s mother and ex-girlfriend, who were both VERY RELUCTANT witnesses for the prosecution. Neither were shown on camera, but you could tell by their tone of voice that they were not there because they wanted to be.
    • Prosecutor Brandon Delfunt did not get much out of his mother. Still, he managed to get Bryant’s ex-girlfriend to admit she had confronted Bryant on the night of July 26, 2022, at the Oak Loch Trace neighborhood where Susana’s phone registered the LIFE360 crash alert.  She said Miles only cracked his window a little bit when she spoke with him but that she didn’t see anyone in the car with him.
    • Later, during the CSI investigator’s testimony, it emerged that Miles’ truck’s windows were very heavily tinted.
  • A cellphone expert testified that both of Miles Bryant’s cellphones, his T-MOBILE personal phone and his VERIZON work-issued phone, placed him in the area where Susana’s remains were found during the early morning hours of July 27, 2022.
  • An inmate who had contact in jail once Miles was arrested testified that Bryant told him that there was no way he would be charged in the case because there was no blood or semen.
  • They then heard from two 404b (prior bad act) witnesses who were allowed to testify for a limited purpose in order for the state to prove Counts 1-4.
    • Elsha Bates was a high school friend who reconnected with Bryant in September 2022 when he called her to try and get back together with a friend of hers.  She told the jury he ended up creeping her out and coming around uninvited multiple times.  She testified that she had him listed in her phone contacts as Miles the Stalker.
      • Reported him as a creeper to Doraville Police Dept. and to Gwinnett County Police Dept.
    • The 2nd witness was not shown on camera. She was a QuickTrip manager who let Miles use her phone for a few minutes, and he went to her hidden album on her phone and stole a naked image of her and texted it to himself.  She had no idea until the police told her after his phone was confiscated.
  • The final witness was the medical examiner, who conceded she could not say with certainty what the cause of death was but said taking all the circumstances into consideration, her belief is that Susana’s death was a homicide.

DAY 2 – 6/6/24

  • Susana’s best friend, Esmeralda Castillo, with whom the victim said she was having dinner the night she disappeared, took the stand and talked about how she covered for Susana when her mother called looking for her.
    • Susana woke up her sister to take her to the location that LIFE360 said there was a crash alert to check on Susana, but did not find her or evidence of a crash.
    • Castillo said she recognized Bryant as someone who had offered to give her and Susana a ride to the gas station, but they did not accept it.
  • Axel Zaragoza, Susana’s boyfriend, talked about the last time he spoke to her, which was over Facetime the night she disappeared. She had told him she would call him when she returned home but never called.
  • Gwinnett County Police Lt. Xavier Biggs, the first officer involved in the case, became emotional on the stand talking about searching for Susana.
  • Matthew Gilbert, who found Susana’s remains, took the stand.
  • Christina Pursley, with the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office, said that she found no sign of trauma on Susana’s remains.
    • Pursley returned after recovering 85% of her remains on Feb. 6, 2023, to search for the hydroid bone. When she returned on Feb. 7, she found the majority of Susana’s fingers and toes.
  • Avyonne Smyre, Miles Bryant’s ex-girlfriend, testified to their relationship, which spanned from Sept. 2021 until Dec. 2023, after Bryant’s arrest.
    • Smyre said that Bryant would come to see her in Carrolton more than she would go see him, and she had suspicions that he was cheating on her. She eventually ended the relationship because she didn’t believe Bryant.

DAY 1 – 6/5/24

  • Prosecutors described Miles Bryant as the cop who turned into a killer who used his badge to satisfy his sexual desires.
  • Defense attorney Tracy Drake told the jurors that Miles Bryant would tell them what happened to Susana Morales.
  • Susana’s mother, Maria Manazares Salgado, described how she lied about going to see a friend that she approved of and instead snuck off to smoke pot with two girls who lived at the Sterling Glen apartment complex, the same complex where Miles Bryant lived. She said she didn’t allow Susana to hang out with her friends Kelly and Alyssa because she didn’t approve of them.
  • Susana’s sister, Jasmine Perez, described finding surveillance video of Susana walking down Singleton Rd. on July 26, 2022.
    • The State introduced the LIFE 360 app testimony about Susana’s movements on July 26, 2022, through her, even though it was Kya Jones who had the app on her phone.
  • Susana’s best friend, Kya Jones, describes grabbing images of the LIFE 360 app data of Susana’s movements on July 26, 2022, after she was told she didn’t make it back home.
    • She testified that Susana was moving in the opposite direction from her home at 40 mph when police said there was a “Crash Alert” that caused her phone to be thrown from the car.
    • Searches never found Susana’s phone, and its last known location was Oak Loch Trace, about one mile the wrong way from her apartment.
  • Susana’s friend, Alyssa Marvin, is one of the two girls Susana went to see on July 26, 2022, and Susana’s mother did not approve of Alyssa and wouldn’t let Susana hang out with her.
    • She only knew Susana for about a month and would smoke pot on the stairs with her outside her apartment.
    • She said she knew Miles Bryant and that he was a cop who offered Susana and Kelly and Alyssa alcohol and edibles on July 20, 2022, even though he knew they were underage.
  • Susana’s friend, Kelly Paguada, the other girl Susana went to see on July 26, 2022, testified that she met Susana at Meadowcreek High School and had been friends with her for about a year.
    • Kelly testified that she walked Susana to the back gate of Sterling Glen Apartments on July 26 and saw her walking away in the direction of her apartment complex.