When 18-year-old Sam Poss first went missing over the weekend, his parents thought he’d been at a friend’s house fixing his computer, then decided to walk home but never arrived.
That same friend, 17-year-old Dakota White, is now charged with murder in Poss’ death, along with 18-year-old Brandon Warren of Houston County.
The three probably knew each other from Perry High School, police said. Poss was a 2016 Perry High graduate. Warren was still enrolled at the school, and White was enrolled until Feb.12, 2015, and did not graduate, Houston County school spokeswoman Beth McLaughlin said in an email.
Perry police think that White and Warren strangled, suffocated and/or stabbed Poss, according to an arrest warrant. White lives at 1102 Tucker Road with his grandparents, who declined comment Thursday.
The arrest warrant said Poss was likely killed between 11 p.m. Friday and and 7 a.m. Saturday at 1102 Tucker Road. However, Perry Police Chief Steve Lynn said during a news conference Thursday that Poss wasn’t killed at White’s house. He declined to say where, though.
Perry police also kept a possible motive and other details of the slaying under wraps at the news conference. The killing was the first homicide in the city since 2008, Lynn said.
Poss’ body was found in a wooded area off Branch View Trail, across from were it connects with Addison Lane. Crime scene tape stretched across an entrance to the wooded area.
Perry police Capt. Heath Dykes said questioning of White late Wednesday led to the discovery of the body.
The wooded area where the body was found is near the 217 Brookwood Trail home where a police statement said Warren lives. No one came to the door Thursday, and a few minutes later Houston County sheriff’s deputies arrived asking reporters not to enter the yard.
Matthew Ryan Whitlock, 27, who identified himself as a friend of Warren’s, called the teen a “real good guy” and said he lived at the Brookwood Trail home with his two brothers.
“They’re really hurting,” Whitlock said of Warren’s family.
Meanwhile, no one answered the door at a Dovetree Lane address listed for Warren on his arrest and booking report.
Something to tell police
Everett Edmonson was working in Montezuma Thursday morning when he got word that Poss’ body had been found near his home and that White had been charged.
Edmonson immediately returned home and stood at the yellow crime scene tape blocking the road because he had information he wanted to tell police. Edmonson said White used to live next door to him on Branch View Trail. Edmonson had seen footprints around a pond behind his house, and he thought a murder weapon might have been thrown in the pond.
Dykes spoke with Edmonson and told him they weren’t looking for a murder weapon. Edmonson mentioned that he had security cameras on his home, and Dykes asked him to check to see if they captured anything suspicious early Saturday morning.
Edmonson returned a short time later and said the camera showed that at 2:52 a.m. Saturday, a car sped by his house, toward where the body was later found. He said the car matched the description of a vehicle White was known to drive. He spoke with police about turning over a copy of the video.
Edmonson said he knew White well and had spent a lot of time with him trying to teach him small engine repair.
“He was kind of troubled,” he said. “Dakota had a real rough childhood.”
White’s father, Jason White, is serving 15 years in Dodge State Prison for armed robbery and two counts of aggravated assault, according to Georgia Department of Corrections online records.
Edmonson also knew Brandon Warren, but not as well.
“He was quiet,” Edmonson said. “He didn’t mess with nobody. Him and Dakota hung out a lot.”
Perry police and GBI agents were at the scene until about 2 p.m. They left and reopened the road soon after Poss’ body was removed. Shortly before investigators left, a Georgia State Patrol helicopter flew a couple of loops over the area.
The spot where the body was found is an undeveloped wooded area where Edmonson said people often throw out dead deer and wild hogs that have been poached.
Mike Crosky, who also lives in the neighborhood where the body was found, said he lives near Warren on Brookwood Trail.
“He’s quiet but he’s sneaky,” Crosky said.
The news that Poss was missing was first posted on Facebook and other social media sites by his mother and others.
The mom’s post was picked up by The Telegraph and other media outlets Monday. Perry police initially posted a response to a question about a helicopter flying over near Poss’ home that they were looking for a missing person. Later, a missing person release was posted on the agency’s Facebook page.
His mother, Nicole Poss, and his father, Christian Poss, organized a search for Poss early Monday along the half-mile wooded trail between White’s home and the Frank Satterfield Road home where Poss lived with his dad. His parents are divorced.
Authorities searched extensively over three days in the 200-acre wooded area using Georgia Search And Rescue teams of firefighters trained for that purpose.
The search was based on information that Poss had left White’s home about 1:30 a.m. Saturday and decided to walk home because it was a nice night out and he wanted to get some exercise. That information came from Poss’ parents, and it was unclear how they got that information. The story about Poss’ leaving the home after fixing the computer is “not necessarily accurate,” police said Thursday.
Poss’ parents did not want to talk with reporters Thursday, Lynn said.
“They’re grieving,” the chief said. “They are, obviously, extremely upset.”
Poss was known to sleep over at friends’ homes, and his father wasn’t initially concerned until Sunday when his son did not show up for a planned trip to the Georgia National Fair.
Police were notified Sunday that Poss was missing.
The search in the woods between Poss and White’s homes included bloodhounds, cadaver dogs and a State Patrol helicopter over three days. Authorities also talked with friends and family, tracked down and ruled out potential sightings of Poss, and scoured abandoned homes and buildings.
The search was abandoned Wednesday when authorities felt there was no way Poss was in the area off Satterfield Road.
That night, Perry police got a break — one they declined to disclose — but it lead to White’s arrest late Wednesday.
Poss’ body was found early Thursday, and Warren was arrested in the early-morning hours Thursday, police said. Police officers were posted to watch over the crime scene overnight.
Both White and Warren requested court-appointed attorneys at separate and brief first-appearance hearings before Chief Magistrate Judge Robert E. Turner on Thursday at the Houston County jail.
An autopsy is expected to be conducted at a GBI crime lab.