Mayor calling for review into handling of Jorelys Rivera case

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:

CANTON, Ga.,None - Canton's mayor is demanding a full review of how police responded to the recent kidnapping and murder of 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera.

Thursday afternoon, Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood confirmed his call for that investigation with Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant. Also, for the first time the Cherokee County sheriff went on record with his concerns about the initial search for Jorelys.

A day after Jorelys disappeared from River Edge Apartments in Canton, Cherokee County Sheriff Roger Garrison sounded the alarm.

"This is still a search that's being conducted by basically civilians at that point, the firefighters and search and rescue personnel doing the search, so they were in charge," Garrison said.

Garrison said he was concerned that the head of the lead agency, Canton Police Chief Jeff Lance, wasn't on scene until later that morning.

"The whole first 48 hours that there was possibly an absence of command and control and just a lot of chaos there," Garrison said.

Garrison admitted one of his deputies and a trainee made a major mistake amidst that chaos, searching and clearing a vacant apartment that turned out to be the crime scene where Jorelys was killed and not telling anyone they saw blood inside.


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"One of the flaws that concerns me with the entire search was these officers weren't debriefed after the search," Garrison said.

The deputy and the trainee only spoke up when questioned by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Child Abduction Response Team the next day after Garrison, rather than Chief Lance, reached out for more resources.

"I just felt it had reached a dead end," Garrison said.


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And now that Jorelys is laid to rest, Hobgood is calling for an independent investigation into how Canton Police and Chief Lance handed the initial search, saying in a statement, "Enough issues were raised that we need to know if we're doing the right thing and could have done better to help us the next time."

Diamant asked Chief Lance point blank Wednesday where he was the morning after Jorelys disappeared.

He wouldn't say and said critics were just "throwing stones."

Diamant called the chief again after the mayor called for that review, but so far Lance hasn't returned his call.