It’s been nearly 35 years since Lewis Jenkins had been back to a rural part of Ware County in Georgia where he once worked as part of a construction crew that was building a bridge.
On Tuesday, he finally returned to recount a moment he hasn’t been able to shake for three decades.
“It looks a whole lot different,” Jenkins told News4JAX as he walked along a tree-lined dirt road near the bridge.
Back in 1988, the area was filled with trash. People used it as an illegal dumping ground. Jenkins and his colleagues saw an opportunity to find something valuable, but instead of buried treasure, they found something haunting — the remains of a little girl.
“Oh, I about went crazy out here,” he said.
He doesn’t remember exactly where they found her, but he does remember she was wearing white. According to the GBI, she was found inside an old TV console wrapped in a blanket, placed in a duffle bag and encased inside concrete.
One of his colleagues, Truman Cason, used a hammer to open it, from what he remembers. Cason said he was “being nosy” and wanted to see what was inside.
The discovery was a shock.
“Like a bucket of water thrown in your face,” Cason said. “You just wasn’t expecting it.”
The grim discovery has haunted both of them for years.
“It kind of busted my heart…to see stuff like that,” Cason said.
That little girl has now been identified as 5-year-old Kenyatta Odom of Albany, Georgia, which is two hours west of where she was found. Mother Evelyn Odom, aka Zmecca Luciana, and her live-in boyfriend at the time, Ulyster Sanders, have now been indicted on charges of felony murder, first-degree child cruelty, aggravated battery-family violence, conspiracy to conceal a death and concealing a death.
“I don’t care what you do in life. God always looking at you, and somebody going to find out sooner or later,” Jenkins said.
He said it’s a blessing to come back to the area knowing her case is no longer cold, a blessing some of the other crew members didn’t live to experience.
“I just wish all of them were here,” Jenkins said. “Where they could see this here, because we all was in shock at the time.”
More than three decades later, the bridge they built still stands and the discovery they made by chance, the starting point in a long journey for justice.
Part of the challenge in this case was Kenyatta was never reported missing. It wasn’t until January this year the GBI said that someone reached out with a tip. They told GBI they remembered a child going missing and the mother said she went to live with her father, but that tipster never really believed her story.