Family reacts to loved one being found dead in DeSoto pond

Published: Jun. 12, 2016 at 3:02 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 24, 2016 at 4:58 PM CDT
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(Source: DeSoto Parish Sheriff's Office)
(Source: DeSoto Parish Sheriff's Office)

LOGANSPORT, LA (KSLA) - Less than a full day after authorities charged a Logansport man with second-degree murder, that charge has been dropped. According to the DeSoto sheriff's office, it all began as a missing persons case that turned into a homicide investigation after the discovery of the woman's body Friday.

A crowd gathered this weekend next to the small moss-covered pond along Old Mansfield Road in Logansport where an investigator discovered a body tentatively identified as 21-year old Maranda Whitton late Friday morning. Later that same day, the sheriff's office arrested 33-year-old Jarrod Johnson.

Whitton's big sister Britni Phillips fought back tears at the scene Saturday afternoon as she told us, "We thought we had him yesterday and come back today and tell us that they don't. If you take a look here, my sister was here and there's no justice for her."

DeSoto Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle said after consulting with the district attorney's office they decided to drop the murder charge when initial autopsy results could not determine a cause of death.

Whitton's cousin Robert Adams pointed to the small dam running alongside the pond and said, "It looked like she had tripped, maybe, she might have tripped."

Adams said it's understandable why Johnson was the prime suspect in the case. "He was the last one seen with her."

Johnson told investigators he'd been tearing down a family house. Relatives said Whitton and her boyfriend went there Monday night for a bonfire with Johnson and others.

According to relatives and Whitton's boyfriend, she left the bonfire about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday and began walking to a relative's home. What's not known for sure was her state of mind when she left and why she left.

The distance from Johnson's family home to the site where her body later was found at the pond is just a few hundred yards down Old Mansfield Road in Logansport. "We heard that she was mad and was leaving because people was doing drugs," added Adams.

We caught up with Whitton's boyfriend, Steven McCoy, who lives just a block from the pond.  He too doesn't know what to think at this point. But he said it was actually Johnson who left the bonfire first, then Whitton.

"When I found out he was arrested, I asked the detectives if he admitted, you know, to doing it? They said, you know, he didn't admit to it. But, we just, we have a lot of evidence, and that was yesterday," McCoy continued. "And now today I hear he's being released, and I don't understand if they have evidence of him doing it or of anything like that sort how can he be released."

McCoy told us he and Whitton were engaged and happy. He insisted she was not upset that night.

"No, she was not leaving because she was upset. She was walking to her cousin's house."

Johnson's second cousin T.J. Rogers said Johnson actually came to his house right down the road within hours of Whitton's disappearance early Tuesday morning. "And he's, you know, talking all crazy. You could tell he was all doped out," recalled Rogers.

Rogers said his cousin's story just kept changing, even mentioning a car that pulled up and stopped on Old Mansfield Road just as Johnson and Whitton were walking away from the bonfire. "And he went one way and she went the other way, and he hadn't seen her since then. And he came up with her boyfriend and was asking, 'Have you seen her? Have you seen her?' And all this stuff."

Whitton's cousin Robert Adams doesn't buy the theory that she might have simply tripped in the dark of night and died half submerged in the pond. "I don't know. I just want whoever done it because I don't believe she just walked out here and died."

Whitton's aunt Theresa Fonville agreed. "No, I don't think she tripped and falled because she's scared of the dark and she wouldn't have been in the woods by herself."

Investigators are now waiting for toxicology tests on Whitton's body in the hopes it might answer at least some questions.

Meantime, Johnson did not walk free from custody. Several sources, including relatives, confirm that at last word Johnson still was recovering at University Health in Shreveport after allegedly swallowing drugs before he was arrested Friday.

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