JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Those closest to Celeste McDonald maintain she went to the Jackson Police Department for help days before her death, wanting to press charges against the man now charged with killing her.
“She was in a panicked state, because she knew what he was capable of. She didn’t want to become a victim," said family friend George Campbell.
Campbell said he accompanied McDonald when she talked to JPD detectives on March 23 to file rape charges against Ryan Christopher Hopkins.
“When she had went up there to make the statement and also do the charges, no one that we had spoken to had taken her seriously. It was like, okay, just another rape incident,” Campbell said.
Campbell said the detectives told her to go get a rape kit done, which she did, at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
He and other family members said that, in the hours that followed, Hopkins sent text messages to McDonald warning her not to press charges.
“Multiple text messages had come through the phone, saying ‘I have a daughter. I don’t need to go back to jail. I have a family,’” Campbell said.
Capt. Johnny Poulos with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation said McDonald was found April 1 in Mound, Louisiana, after being killed in Jackson.
Poulos tells 3 On Your Side the agency was brought in to handle the homicide investigation.
When Campbell went to Hopkins’ preliminary hearing, he heard nothing about rape.
Hopkins and Yolanda Michelle Torns are currently charged with conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder.
“When I heard that, I wondered did JPD ever go through the rape charges?” Campbell said. “They were indeed there, but [the charges] were never [used] against them. We went to [UMMC] where they did the rape kit, but it was never stated.”
Now, McDonald’s mother and uncle want to know why it appears the JPD rape case never moved forward.
“How many more lives will it take to lose? How many more families have to go through what we’ve been through? Just do your job, especially in rape cases, homicides, whatever it may be," said McDonald’s uncle, Wiley McCarter.
JPD Sergeant Roderick Holmes confirmed McDonald had reported a sexual assault incident earlier this year, but did not have an exact date and was not able to tell us who the alleged suspect was in that case.
“I am not able to determine who the alleged suspect was at that time based on the information that I was able to retrieve,” Holmes said in an email Tuesday.
3 On Your Side followed up with another email at noon Wednesday, asking when McDonald reported the incident and whether there was enough evidence to move forward with any charges.
Upon speaking with the family, we emailed Holmes, spokesperson Sam Brown and City of Jackson Communications Director Candice Cole to pass along the family’s claims against the department to get a response to those allegations, but have not yet received a reply.