Three men are charged with murder in the killings of Vanita Nicole Richardson and Truvenia Clarece Campbell.
Additional arrests are anticipated as the investigation continues, said Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Joe Montgomery.
Desmond Lavonta Brown, 28; Devin Lashawn Watts, 36; and Christopher Leedarius Pullen, 23, have all been charged with murder, according to an announcement by the GBI in Rome Thursday.
All three men had been previously arrested and were being held without bond at the Floyd County Jail.
Brown and Watts are each charged with malice murder as well as several predicate charges, including felony murder and aggravated assault.
Pullen is charged with felony murder, which carries the same sentence as malice murder but may indicate a slightly lesser involvement. Felony murder is essentially a criminal allegation that states someone died while a felony was being committed.
All three are charged with theft by taking, abandonment of a dead body and tampering with evidence as well.
The GBI was called in by Rome police to investigate the killings of Richardson and Campbell — half-sisters whose bodies were discovered off the East Rome Bypass on May 13.
Investigators determined the two were killed sometime between the evening of May 12 and the morning of May 13 before being dropped over the side of the Etowah River Bridge on the bypass with bags over their heads.
“I want you to know this took a great deal of man-hours and work,” said GBI Director Vic Reynolds, who grew up in the Rome area and said he took a great deal of personal interest in the case. “We’ve executed over 130 search warrants and court orders in this case.”
Reynolds said his agency alone has put in more than 2,900 man-hours since being brought into the case.
“I want to take a moment to tell these victims’ families how much we appreciate their patience,” Reynolds said.
The director did not take any questions and said that officers could not provide any additional details regarding the murders — not even the official cause of deaths — to protect the integrity of the investigation.
“We’re still openly running down some additional leads and doing some additional work to conclude the case before we turn it over to the district attorney’s office,” Reynolds said.
Rome Police Chief Denise Downer McKinney called the murders “a hideous crime in our city.” And she said she was grateful to the GBI and her various units for their hours and hours of work to get the investigation to this point.
Richardson and Campbell were last seen alive in Richardson’s 1997 gold Toyota Corolla during the evening of May 12. Investigators sought the public’s help in tracking down the car. Reynolds said the vehicle was ultimately recovered thanks to tips from the public.
Police arrested Brown and Watts a few days after the women’s bodies were found, following searches conducted at the Callier Forest Apartments on Dodd Boulevard on May 18 and 19.
Brown was originally charged with misdemeanor obstruction of law enforcement officers after he reportedly entered a vehicle after being told not to do so by police and then resisted officers before being restrained.
Released on bond, Brown was rearrested in Bartow County on drug charges days later. He was transferred to the Floyd County Jail and was being held on felony cocaine charges and a probation violation.
The most recent arrests in connection with the investigation were those of Pullen, on drug charges, as well as an Aragon man.
Alec Heath Brogdon,18, is charged with selling a stolen Glock .380 pistol to Watts back in May. Warrants stated that Watts, who cannot lawfully possess a firearm because of a previous felony conviction, hid the stolen pistol in the closet of Apartment J-10.
“I want to thank the Rome Police Department, the Floyd County Police Department, the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department, Rome-Floyd Metro Task Force,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said the investigation spread into several other jurisdictions and the GBI partnered with Cartersville-Bartow County Drug Task Force, the F.B.I., U.S. Marshals Service, Georgia State Patrol, Union City Police, Atlanta Police, Rockmart Police, Polk County Police, Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and several GBI regional offices.
Reynolds also issued special thanks the personnel at the GBI Crime Lab and the Floyd County District Attorney’s Office.