The body of a man found in Douglas County has been positively identified as Keontae Chenault, according to friends and family of the DeKalb County man.
Family friend Jill Bernstein said the positive identification was made by the Douglas County coroner’s office. The family was notified on June 9.
Friends and family blame the DeKalb County police department for its lack of action after the 21-year-old man went missing on May 22.
A body, now confirmed as Chenault’s, was found on May 30 along I-20 in Douglas County, but the family said the connection between his disappearance and his identification was only achieved after they appealed to the media.
“We absolutely believe that DeKalb County’s lack of concern and attention to the case is the reason that we spent two weeks without knowing what happened to him,” Bernstein said. “They told us that they were sure that he just wanted to disappear and that there was absolutely no sign that any foul play had occurred.”
Chenault, a graduate of Berkmar High School in Lilburn, was supposed to meet with friends on the evening of May 22, and later go to his girlfriend’s house, but never showed up.
His mother, Kissa, first reported him missing on May 27 after the girlfriend reported his absence. He was officially designated a missing person by police on May 28.
Bernstein and Kissa went to the media after police officials told them on May 30 that the case had been closed because of a lack of evidence of foul play.
The police in Douglas County said they only made the connection after seeing media reports about the missing man, she said.
A comparison of Keontae’s dental records to the Douglas County victim confirmed that the victim was the deceased man.
“Kissa and I went to Douglas County yesterday and they would not allow us to see him,” Bernstein said. “They told us that the person’s face was too damaged or mutilated and that a visual identification would not be possible. They refused to tell us anything else, even if he was wearing clothes, or what his injuries were.”
Bernstein, who called Chenault “one of the best kids you would ever meet,” said he was a fierce guardian over his four sisters, the youngest being 14 years old.
“He had ‘my sisters’ protector’ tattooed on his chest, and he used to sleep on the couch in the living room so he would be able to defend them against intruders,” she said. “He was an amazing and caring young man and never was in any kind of trouble.”
Bernstein said he was supposed to start a new job with FedEx on May 30. Instead, his family is making funeral plans.
DeKalb County Police have not responded to phone inquiries regarding the case.
Friends had set up a Go Fund Me page for to help finance a reward for his safe return, but it was temporarily shut down after the Douglas County discovery. It has now been converted to a fund to cover funeral expenses and has gathered about $7,000 in donations from more than 150 people.
“We emailed everyone who had donated previously and asked them if they wanted their money back, and to a person, they said they didn’t,” Bernstein said.
Bernstein said the family is “inconsolable” and looking for answers, few of which are being supplied by law enforcement officials.
“We don’t even know who is in charge of the investigation, Douglas or DeKalb County,” she said.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.