Miles Bryant guilty, sentenced in murder of 16-year-old Susana Morales

Former Doraville Police Officer Miles Bryant has been found guilty in the murder of 16-year-old Susana Morales.

The Gwinnett County jury's verdict was read just after 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

He was found guilty of malice murder, felony murder, kidnapping, and false report of a crime, but was acquitted on criminal attempt to commit rape.

During his sentencing hearing, Susana Morales’ younger sister, fighting back tears, spoke to the court immediately following the guilty verdict.

"All I ever wanted was justice for what happened to her. I want to thank you for that," she said. 

"I'm so sorry you lost your sister," Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Tamela L. Adkins told her. 

Her older sister described to the court the impact the loss of their teenage daughter had on her mother. She said she lost 25 pounds of weight.

Susana Morales' mother, Maria Bran, addressed the court through a translator. Through a torrent of emotions, she thanked the court, the jury, and all who had supported her family through it all.

"Every night I can't sleep without thinking about her," Bran said.

She told the court about the terror she experienced knowing what happened to her daughter.

"I know none of this will bring her back or take away the pain," Bran said.

"I cannot imagine the torture and pain you endured," Judge Adkins. "Susana did not deserve this."

The judge, becoming visibly emotional, spoke to Susana's mother, telling her she hopes she finds some sort of comfort, if not closure. 

"He is a monster, he is what goes bump in the night. He is a predator," said special prosecutor Brandon Delfunt.

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The family of 16-year-old Susana Morales speak at a sentencing hearing for Miles Bryant in Gwinnett County on June 12, 2024.  (FOX 5)

Delfunt asked for the maximum, life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Bryant's attorney asked for leniency based on his age.

"I just want to apologize to everybody, to the victim's family, that's it," Byrant told the court.

Judge Adkins sentenced Bryant to life in prison without the possibility of parole on the murder charges and 12 months consecutive for filing a false report.


Susana Morales' mom on the stand

During opening statements, Delfunt addressed the jury, emphasizing Bryant's betrayal of his oath to serve and protect. Delfunt stated, "He took an oath to uphold all of the laws. He is one of the people that we should trust to enforce the law. Somebody we should hold to a higher standard because of his role in enforcing the law. But he didn't do any of those things. Instead, he abused the law and he used his badge and he used his position to satisfy his own sexual desires."

Susana Morales' mother, Maria Bran, was the first witness called by the prosecution on Wednesday.

Speaking through a translator, Maria Bran grew emotional as she recounted being unable to reach her daughter the night she was killed.

"I called and called several times. She did not answer," Bran testified.

"Did you ever hear back from Susana?" Delfunt asked.

"No, never again," Bran replied.

Officer who searched for Susana Morales breaks down on stand

One of the key investigators in the Morales disappearance case broke down in tears multiple times while on the stand. At one point, the judge ordered a 15-minute comfort break to allow the investigator to compose himself. 

On June 6, five witnesses testified the same day, including three investigators, the victim's best friend, and her boyfriend.  

The friends testified about the night Morales told them she was headed home from a friend's house. They also described how loved ones received Life360 alerts indicating a possible car crash, followed by a sudden change in direction at high speed. After that, no one heard from her again. 

During Lieutenant Biggers' testimony, he discussed how he spent many late nights canvassing and searching for Morales. He felt a particular connection to the case, believing the teen was taken against her will.  

"The anguish and sadness that the mother felt touched me deeply," Biggers said. "I have a daughter the same age, and my wife is Hispanic. I felt it was my duty to try to find her, being a parent and very worried about your child." 

The defense asked about Morales' suspension history at school, drug use, and media posts leading up to her disappearance. Lieutenant Biggers testified that he doesn't believe any of those details were relevant or contributed to Morales' disappearance. 

Morales' best friend and boyfriend also took the stand and discussed how the teen was headed home from a friend's house the night they last spoke to her in July 2022. They also described how loved ones received Life360 alerts indicating a possible car crash, followed by a sudden change in direction at high speed. After that, no one heard from her again.  

On February 6, 2023, Matthew Gilbert was off-roading when he found remains along Drowning Creek Road which was about 20 miles from where Morales was last seen. "There were skull bones scattered throughout the woods," he said.   

Investigators say they didn’t find any of Morales’s clothes or personal items with her remains but did find Bryant's gun in the nearby area. Bryant had reported his firearm as missing. 

At the time of Morales' death, Bryant was working as a courtesy officer at the Gwinnett apartment complex Morales visited the night she went missing. Prosecutors allege that she was murdered that same night. However, her body wasn't found until several months later.   

Miles Bryant's mother, ex-girlfriend, cellmate called to testify in murder trial

In the morning session on June 7, Tracy Bryant, the mother of the accused, was the first witness to take the stand, called by Delfunt. The prosecution focused on text messages sent by Bryant to his mother on the night Morales was killed. 

Prosecutors also called one of the defendant's ex-girlfriends to the stand. 

Sanovia Parks testified she and Bryant were long-time friends who dated for a few years. She testified that they continued to live together at the Sterling Glen Apartment complex for a time after breaking up in June 2022. 

The prosecution hopes to establish that Bryant lied about his movements the night Morales disappeared. During testimony, Bryant’s ex-girlfriend disputed the defendant's claims of his whereabouts that night. 

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Prosecutors in the Miles Bryant murder trial played a Ring camera video showing what they say was Bryant trying to open the door of a friend he is accused of stalking during testimony at the Gwinnett County courthouse on June 7, 2024.  (Supplied)

The prosecution played Ring camera video capturing the defendant attempting to break into the residence of a long-time friend that December. 

She testified the defendant was stalking her and showed up at her house uninvited on multiple occasions. 

Gwinnett County jail inmate Michael Jones also took the witness stand for the prosecution. 

He told the court he talked with Bryant daily while both were housed at the Lawrenceville facility, and said Bryant told him he wasn't going to be linked to Morales' murder because there were no bodily fluids recovered at the crime scene. 

Michael Jones testifies what he says Miles Bryant, his then-cellmate, said about his impending murder charges during the trial at the Gwinnett County courthouse on June 7, 2024.

Michael Jones testifies what he says Miles Bryant, his then-cellmate, said about his impending murder charges during the trial at the Gwinnett County courthouse on June 7, 2024.  (FOX 5)

"He said, ‘Well, I'm not going to be charged with this. They said they ain't got nothing against me. It said right here, there ain’t no fluid, no blood, nothing. They ain't got nothing against me,’" Jones testified. 

When pressed by Bryant's attorney, Jones denied being offered a deal by the prosecution to testify. 

Investigator John Wilbanks, an expert in cellular data mapping, was also called to testify. 

Gun found nearby Susana Morales' remains entered into evidence

Several law enforcement officials took the stand on Monday morning. The court also viewed security video from a daycare facility on Singleton Road, showing Morales walking along the road before she disappeared. Cell phone records were also discussed.

Homicide Detective Angela Carter took the stand and became emotional when asked about the day Morales' body was found.

She told the court that she had a feeling that it was going to be Morales when she first heard a body had been found.

The jury also heard an interrogation dated Feb. 13, just days after Morales' remains were found. Police said they found Bryant's gun nearby. He previously reported it missing.

The interrogation started with conversations about police work and the military, and gradually turned into the investigators confronting him about the evidence.

After several hours, Bryant was placed in handcuffs. 

Miles Bryant's attorneys rest case

On Tuesday, Bryant told the judge he would not testify on his own behalf. The defense team rested its case without presenting a single witness.

Gwinnett Police Department Homicide Detective Angela Carter returned to the witness stand for a second day of testimony.

Investigators honed in on Bryant as a suspect after his gun was found near Morales' skeletal remains and his cell phone pinged in the area where she was discovered.

Much of Tuesday morning's testimony revolved around the data recovered from Bryant's cellphones, which included multiple internet searches about the Susana Morales case.

The jury also watched police body camera footage that captured a conversation Bryant had with a girl who returned home after her family reported her missing in May 2022.

"If something were to happen to you we are doing a rape or a missing person, then we find your body out there in the woods. Then what? 'Cause you are probably strong and smart, say no to strangers and stuff like that, but those people don't care," Bryant could be heard saying on tape. "People are my size, big, and snatch you up. You can scream and shout all you want, they will throw you in the back of a van. They will take you, and your parents will never see you again."

Closing arguments in Miles Bryant murder trial

Delfunt called Bryant a cop turned killer.

"He is evil. He is a monster and a predator, and he used his badge and his uniform to do it," Delfunt told jurors. 

During closing arguments, defense attorney Tracy Drake admitted Morales was with Bryant in his vehicle that night, and claimed the defendant lied about losing his gun in the woods because he feared for his job. Drake said that didn't make him a killer. "We do know that Miles left her in the woods. We don't know if she was unconscious at that time or if she was dead. We don't know that he did anything to her to cause that. " 

The medical examiner was unable to determine how Morales died due to the condition of her skeletal remains. Bryant's attorney told jurors the victim may have died of a drug overdose and the prosecution's case is based solely on circumstantial evidence. 

Delfunt urged jurors to focus on the evidence presented during trial and ignore, what he called, the defense's attempt to distract them with unsubstantiated theories of what happened the night Morales was killed. 

"Their theory of something else happening makes absolutely no sense and isn't supported by a single shred of evidence," Bryant said. 

"There is no evidence that she knew or would ever voluntarily spend time with the defendant, talk to the defendant, have sex with the defendant, hook up with him.  She is on her street, steps from her house when she is snatched off the street and ends up dead completely naked." 

Bryant faces life in prison without parole. 

What happened to Susana Morales?

Susana Morales

Susana Morales

Morales was reportedly walking home from a friend's house on July 26, 2022, when she disappeared. She was last seen on surveillance video near Singleton Road and Indian Trail Lilburn Road around 10 p.m.

Her family claimed that the Gwinnett County Police Department did not take her disappearance seriously because they believed she was a runaway. They searched for her themselves without any luck.

In February 2023, Susana's remains were found near Highway 316. A few days later, police held a press conference and announced they had arrested Doraville Police Officer Miles Bryant, who worked as a courtesy officer at the apartment complex the teenager was visiting before her disappearance. 

Former Doraville Police Officer Miles Bryant, accused in the murder of 16-year-old Susana Morales in July 2022, sits in a Gwinnett County courtroom listening to testimony on June 7, 2024.

Former Doraville Police Officer Miles Bryant, accused in the murder of 16-year-old Susana Morales in July 2022, sits in a Gwinnett County courtroom listening to testimony on June 7, 2024. 


Since being accused of killing Morales, other women have described disturbing behavior by Bryant.