A road worker tasked with fixing a guard rail made a grisly discovery when he momentarily glanced away on what should have been a typical summer afternoon but instead marked the beginning of an enduring mystery about the murder of a little girl.
In amongst a nearby grove of trees on the Highway 101 southbound on-ramp in Santa Rosa, California, his eyes locked on a decomposing body, around 2pm on August 22, 1997.
A few days later, authorities identified the body as having belonged to 12-year-old Georgia Leah Moses. A coroner determined that the child, who lived in the area, had been strangled or smothered to death. Her killer or killers have still not been found.
Twenty five years on, Angel Turner—who was seven years old when her beloved older sister Georgia was murdered—has grown increasingly frustrated by a lack of developments in the case. She wants to know who murdered her sister. And why.
“Over the years, many attempts to the Sonoma County Police Department, Santa Rosa Police Department as well as other law enforcement entities, have been made to have this case reexamined, with very little help and often times no response,” Turner said.
So she’s “made it (her) mission” to find Georgia’s killer by launching her own investigation into the murder with the help of family advocate Maria Davis. The pair has repeatedly called on police to “give her case the proper due diligence of a thorough investigation” and last year released a podcast, They Called her Georgia Lee. Turner also manages the Justice for Georgia Lee Moses Facebook page and website.
“My sister has been under prioritized for YEARS!” Angel posted in response to a police statement about the hunt for Georgia’s killer on Facebook.
Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sergeant Juan Valencia told The Daily Beast that he could not discuss the matter because it’s an “open cold case and any additional information could jeopardize the integrity of the case”.
Valencia would not be drawn on whether or not police were working on any new leads, if they had any suspects, or if any DNA other than Georgia’s had been detected on her badly decomposed body and tested following scientific advances in recent years.
Georgia was last seen alive by a friend who walked her to a gas station near the intersection of Sebastopol Road and Dutton Avenue in Santa Rosa at approximately 10pm on Wednesday, August 13, 1997. Turner later learned that Georgia had received a page on her pager earlier that day and responded to it. It’s not yet known who she communicated with or if that person had anything to do with her death.
Nine days later, her lifeless, naked body was found dumped on the side of a road.
In a statement, the Sonoma Sheriff’s Department said the friends had parted ways when Georgia got into a “small, white four-door car” with a black man aged between 25-30, according to police.
The man was approximately 6’2” to 6’4” and about 200 pounds with very short black hair, authorities said, adding that he “is a person of interest whom we have not been able to identify”.
“(Georgia) was a 12-year-old black girl, 5’4” and approximately 120 pounds, with shoulder length braided black hair.”
What happened next has remained a mystery for the past 25 years, along with the killer’s identity.
But what is clear is that Georgia’s life was tragically cut short and whoever was responsible has not been held accountable.
“We issued information to the public as part of our initial investigation, including Georgia’s last known location and a sketch of a man who was a person of interest,” the police statement read.
“Detectives continued to investigate her death by re-examining evidence as new technologies became available. Detectives have followed up on every lead submitted over the years, yet her case is unsolved.”
But Turner hasn’t given up hope that Georgia’s killer or killers will be found and brought to justice. In fact, she’s hopeful that by ramping up pressure on police and the public to help solve the case, she will get that result this year.
“I have faith that God will perform a miracle in my sister’s case,” she wrote online.
“2022, is going to be the greatest year yet. I know the miracles are coming and this year your murder will be solved.”
Turner declined to be interviewed for this article while on “a break” but continues to invest extensive time and energy into seeking justice for her sister.
Perhaps key to that is identifying the man Georgia was last seen alive with. Did he kill Georgia? And if so, why? Or can he provide new information that might help unlock the mystery about her final moments and tragic death?
Turner believes that her sister may have fallen into sex trafficking, however Sonoma County Police declined to confirm or deny if this was a line of inquiry they were investigating when contacted by The Daily Beast.
“It’s said that she was going to a party. With whom we don’t know. We don’t know the circumstances of that party. But it is said that her friend (the last person to see Georgia) told police that Georgia called her back later that evening to say she wouldn’t be returning later that night,” Turner said on the podcast They Called Her Georgia Lee.
Georgia had dropped out of school to care for her mother who was ill. However, she moved out of home when her mum’s boyfriend moved in.
“Back in March (1997) there was a situation where my sister went into her room and my ma’s boyfriend followed her in there. And I just remember him closing the door. And the next thing I hear there is yelling and things being thrown and he comes out and he’s like ‘well if you’re not going to follow my rules then you can’t stay here’. He walked off and I went into the room. There was mustard all over the walls,” Turner said on the podcast. Georgia moved out soon after.
Georgia regularly returned to the home to visit her little sister, Angel, and check in on her.
“Georgia wasn’t a troubled kid,” Angel said.
“She was the best sister, daughter, friend and person you’d ever meet.
“She was a shining star that was failed—over and over and over again.”
On the same day Georgia’s body was found, Child Protective Services (CPS) stopped by her mother’s home in Santa Rosa to inquire about a suspected sex offender in the area. While they were there, Turner spoke up about her sister being missing.
Authorities soon put two and two together and dental records later confirmed Georgia had been killed.
“I knew something was wrong because she always came to see me,” Turner told Dateline.
“So at seven years old, I was the one who had to report my sister missing.”
At the time of Georgia’s murder, she had been living with family friends where she was reportedly required to pay rent out of her own pocket.
Speaking on her podcast, Turner revealed she also believes that her sister was being trafficked for sex by adults she associated with during her last year alive and that the unidentified person-of-interest whose car she was last seen hopping into may have been linked to that network.
“While there is a sketch circulating of a ‘person of interest,’ I personally believe more than one person holds responsibility for what happened to my sister,” Turner wrote on Facebook.
“I believe what is believed to have happened to my sister is only a portion of the truth.
“This is a reminder to whoever holds ANY responsibility in my sister’s murder… Justice has NO expiration date!”
A reward of up to $2,500 has previously been offered by the Sonoma County Alliance Community Engagement and Safety Rewards Fund for information leading to the arrest of the suspect or suspects involved in Georgia’s murder.
Many people have been critical of the reward, claiming it is too low and noting that the amount was often much higher in other unsolved murders. The Sheriff’s office responded to those claims, saying the department was not responsible for offering financial rewards to solve crimes.
Turner is now aged in her thirties and married with children of her own. She can’t help but wonder how different things would and should have been if Georgia hadn’t fallen victim to a predator.
She believes her sister also “would have been married with kids by now, spoiling (her) nieces and nephews rotten and telling me that I can do anything I put my mind to”.
“We would have been a dynamic duo, accomplishing so much together,” she posted online in January this year to mark what would have been Georgia’s 37th birthday.
“My sister’s life mattered so much.
“If Georgia was alive today, she would without a doubt, be changing the world for the better—in so many ways.”
Georgia’s middle name was initially believed by many of her family members—including Turner—and authorities to be Lee, but it was later determined to be Leah.
The mix-up is now immortalized on her grave stone which reads “Georgia Lee…” and in a 1999 song by Petaluma native Tom Waits in which he asks: “Why wasn’t God watching, why wasn’t God listening, why wasn’t God there, for Georgia Lee?”
It’s a tragic case that has long-posed more questions than answers. But Turner is determined to get to the bottom of them no matter how long it takes.
And she has a warning for the killer(s): “Georgia’s little sister is looking for you,” she wrote in a post.
“No matter how much time passes, the truth eventually comes out.”