ANDERSON CO., SC (WSPA) – The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office said two people have been identified as suspects in the death investigation of Leonna Wright.
During a news conference Thursday, Sheriff Chad McBride identified Travis Devon Jones and Donnie Roderick Jones as suspects in Wright’s death investigation.
Wright disappeared from her mother’s Pendleton apartment on June 6, 2015. She was 1 years old when she disappeared.
Anderson County Sheriff Chad McBride previously announced in 2018 that the former boyfriend of Wright’s mother, Travis Jones, was a suspect in the case.
Jail records show that Travis Jones was arrested Wednesday on a charge of homicide by child abuse.
Wright had been in the custody of Travis Jones while her mother was at a party, according to deputies.
When her mother returned, Wright was gone.
According to his arrest warrant, Travis Jones “did cause the death of a one year old child while committing child abuse or neglect, under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life.”
The warrant goes on to say that Travis Jones willfully abandoned and neglected the child multiple times the day she went missing and that the child has not been seen or found alive since that date.
“I have to live with this every day, and I hurt everyday because I miss my baby,” said Leonna Wright’s mother, Kiara Sullivan. “You just don’t know what you done did to me and my family, my kids. He took my everything. And I want him to be held accountable.”
During his bond hearing Thursday, a judge said Circuit Court judge will determine whether Travis Jones can have bond at this time. He faces 20 years to life in prison on the homicide by child abuse charge.
Travis Jones said during the hearing that he and his brother are innocent.
A detainer has been placed on Donnie Roderick Jones, who is currently incarcerated in the South Carolina Department of Corrections serving a sentence on an unrelated offense, to ensure his return to Anderson County to be charged.
McBride said that Donnie Jones currently has two warrants that will be served to him upon his release from SCDC.
Those warrants are for accessory after the fact and destruction or desecration of human remains.
It’s now a relief for Leonna’s grand-parents.
“He got to pay for what went down in that house that night. That I don’t know, but whatever it is, or whatever he did, he should be man enough to step up and be accountable,” said Julia Sullivan, Leonna Wright’s grand-mother.
“I feel good. I feel like he deserve some of it too. Because from what we’ve heard those two were together during everything with Leonna,” said Walter Cowan, Leonna Wrigth’s grand-father.
“There’s not going to be a whole lot of information that I can tell you today,” McBride said in regard to the case. “That is because of the sensitivity of this case. This case is very important and I will not do anything that jeopardizes the continued efforts to prosecute this case.”
Traci Fant with Freedom Fighters, said during the news conference Thursday that “we’re going to continue to fight until complete justice is served for baby Leonna Wright, who disappeared five years ago when she was only 1 years old.”
“Our prayer is that this case goes before a jury who will see the evidence and understand why Sheriff McBride and his team found it necessary to press forward with charges against Travis Jones and his brother,” Fant said.
Despite the family now knowing who is suspected to be behind the death and disappearance, they want answers as to what happen to their baby.
“He needs to tell us, what did he do with my grand baby because she was innocent. Very beautiful innocent baby,” Sullivan said.
The arrest warrants were initially announced in a statement by Tenth Circuit Solicitor David Wagner.
Wagner released a statement saying that his office was asked to review the case prior to any decision to charge anyone but the sheriff’s office did not wait for the review to be completed before charging.
“I cannot speak to the appropriateness of these charges until the full review process is finalized to ensure the high standards of evidence that we require for prosecution have been met,” said Wagner. “Therefore, my office considers this matter to remain an on-going open investigation, and for that reason I will not be commenting further at this time.”
Full statement by Tenth Circuit Solicitor David Wagner:
I am aware that warrants have been obtained by the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office at the direction of Sheriff McBride in the matter of the tragic case of Leonna Wright. As a courtesy to the Sheriff’s Office I agreed to review the Leonna Wright case file prior to any charging decision being made. Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s Office has declined to return this courtesy by waiting until my review was complete prior to charging. I cannot speak to the appropriateness of these charges until the full review process is finalized to ensure the high standards of evidence that we require for prosecution have been met. Therefore, my Office considers this matter to remain an on-going open investigation, and for that reason I will not be commenting further at this time.Solicitor David R. Wagner
The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office said detectives presented the facts of their case to a magistrate judge who found probable cause to issue arrest warrants.
In a statement, the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office called the announcement by the solicitor “potentially reckless and unorthodox.”
“The release of this information was done prematurely and can now potentially cause a flight risk of suspect(s) in this case. It also creates an officer safety risk for those involved in trying to apprehend the suspect(s),” the statement said.
Full statement by the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office:
We feel that the early release of the information regarding the case of Baby Leona Wright by the 10th Circuit Solicitor’s Office is potentially reckless and unorthodox. We are in somewhat disbelief that these actions have occurred as it is not normal standard procedure.
The release of this information was done prematurely and can now potentially cause a flight risk of suspect(s) in this case. It also creates an officer safety risk for those involved in trying to apprehend the suspect(s).
Additionally, the 10th Circuit Solicitor’s has had the case file for review since January 2020. Anderson County Sheriff’s Detectives recently presented the facts of this case to a Magistrate, who found probable cause to issue arrest warrants.
The ACSO will have no further comment until arrests have made.