A little under 20 people attended a vigil at the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center in Cartersville Sunday to pay their respects to a still unidentified woman whose body was discovered at a landfill in Bartow County last month.
"It has rocked our community," said Susan James, the 57-year-old Bartow County resident who organized the vigil. "We are not exempt from evil, and hopefully, God willing, people will be aware and hold our community closer and our children closer."
The vigil was held almost three weeks after the Bartow County Sheriff's Office (BCSO) announced the remains of the victim were found in a trash compactor dumpster being dumped at the Bartow County landfill site at 40 Allatoona Dam Road.
According to Sheriff Clark Millsap, that container was picked up from a compactor site at 15 Cedar Creek Road.
Millsap said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) ruled the woman's death to be "a violent homicide." In almost 35 years of work in the law enforcement field, he said he'd never seen anything like it.
"When [a sanitation worker] opened the back of the dumpster, which is before he pushes all of the contents out, the bottom torso fell out of the bag," Millsap said at an Aug. 15 press conference.
Over the last few days, social media speculation has swirled concerning a seeming positive identification of the victim. Photos that quickly went viral online depict a missing woman from West Virginia, whose tattoos are virtually identical to sketches and photographs of markings on the victim found in the Bartow County landfill.
However, neither the BCSO or the GBI have confirmed that the victim found in Bartow and the missing woman from West Virginia are the same person.
"There has been no positive identification with law enforcement and they are working diligently on the case," said Tasha Smith, a 41-year-old Bartow County resident who spoke at the vigil. "All I'm asking is ... that justice be done for this crime."
Keith Milner, pastor of Forever Blessed Church in Cartersville, led a prayer session at the event.
"Now is not a time for judgment, now is not a time for gossip," he said. "But it's time to come together in one mind and in one accord and be believers and be the church and be the light and the example that God has called us to be when bad things happen ... we want to pray for justice for this young lady and we want to pray for strength and for comfort for the families involved, and even for repentance for the ones who perpetrated this."
Mourners at the vigil referred to the unidentified victim simply as "Angel."
Kat Brown, a 47-year-old mourner from Bartow, said she was shocked by the "heinous" nature of the crime.
"To be thrown away like trash in a landfill, that's just pure evil," she said. "I'm from New York, originally, and you hear stuff about this all the time happening there, but it's happening everywhere now, even small towns like Cartersville."
James also said the "evil manner" of the woman's death greatly affected her.
"We don't know the details, but we know just enough to paint an image in our minds," she said. "Every death matters, every homicide matters, every person lost matters. But this specific girl, and the manner of her death, I think rocked this community."
She said she is optimistic, however, that local law enforcement will unravel the mysteries behind the murder and bring the perpetrator — or perpetrators — of the crime to justice.
"I think the investigation has been handled professionally and proficiently and I am proud of them," she said. "I have met several of the law enforcement [officials] at the Bartow County Sheriff's Office and I know they're going to solve this — it's just a matter of time."
Whether the case is cracked or remains unsolved, James said she hopes the local community doesn't forget its underlying lessons.
"Being vigilant is what I'm hoping the long term effects will be," she said. "I pray that this community will come together and unite and bring peace to Bartow County and actually get into action."