Local law enforcement and the GBI spent nearly four hours Wednesday at the scene where the bodies of two Floyd County women were found after apparently being dropped over an East Rome Bypass bridge.
The GBI confirmed Thursday afternoon it is treating the deaths as a homicide as they continue their investigation.
The bodies of the two women, who were sisters, were found on a dry area under the northbound bridge over the Etowah River near Grizzard Park. They were removed from the scene with the help of Rome-Floyd County Fire Department personnel.
Floyd County Chief Deputy Coroner Connie Chandler confirmed the identity of the two women found dead as 19-year-old Vanita Nicole "Vera" Richardson, and 30-year-old Truvenia Clarece "Bean" Campbell.
Chandler said the cause of their death is under investigation and the bodies of the two women were taken to the state crime lab on Thursday morning.
Multiple posts to both women's social media pages mourned their deaths. Richardson attended Armuchee High School and was scheduled to graduate this year.
"We are deeply saddened and heartbroken by the news of the death of one of our students, Vanita Richardson who was scheduled to graduate next Saturday," a statement from Floyd County Schools spokesperson Lenora Doss. "We extend our deepest sympathies to the Armuchee Community and her friends and family at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. Vanita will be remembered for being a fun-loving, humble, and motivated student who was making strong plans for her future."
Doss said staff remembered Richardson as a "caring personality and a big heart."
An Armuchee High social worker and counselor will be available for virtual grief and loss counseling sessions. Students who are interested should email them directly.
Rome police officers initially secured the area with the help of several local agencies after the bodies were discovered by a Georgia Department of Transportation crew Wednesday morning, according to GBI Assistant Special Agent In Charge Brian Johnston.
“We’ve been called to assist on the investigation into two bodies that were found just over the bridge here that were apparently dropped over the bridge,” Johnston said, adding that Rome police requested their assistance in the investigation.
He said the bodies were initially found by a pair of GDOT workers who were at the site to perform routine maintenance on the bridge. The first calls came in just before 11 a.m. The bodies were removed just before 3 p.m.
He said their investigation is ongoing and in the early stages.
“We’re working on those leads right now. That’s about all the information I can give you right now,” Johnston said.
Investigators are seeking information from anyone traveling in that area between Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. and Wednesday at 11 a.m.
"Investigators need your help," a statement read. "Please contact the GBI at 1-800-597-8477 with any information pertinent to the investigation."
Georgia State Patrol, Floyd County police, Floyd County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies descended on the section of Ga. Loop 1 just south of Grizzard Park around 11 a.m. Wednesday as police set up a perimeter and began their investigation.
Initial reports from scanner traffic indicated that the two victims had bags over their heads and that spent shotgun shells were found in the area of the bodies. The information was not confirmed by the GBI or local police.
The area where the bodies were found is across the Etowah River from Dixon Landing at Grizzard Park. Once investigators completed their initial review of the scene, Rome-Floyd Fire personnel assisted the Floyd County coroner’s office in getting the victims up to the bridge for transport.
“We used a 70-foot aerial ladder with a four-to-one haul system with a Stokes basket to hoist the victims up over the side of the bridge and get them in the care of the coroner,” Battalion Chief Brad Beall said.