Lake search for suspect comes up empty for third day

LILBURN -- Jordan Waters poked the bed of Lake Lucerne with a stick Tuesday from an entry point behind the home she'd grown up in. She eyed a school of bass and submerged branches. She wondered what else might be in the water.

Waters frequents the 40-acre Snellville lake with her two kids, ages 5 and 9, and was alarmed by news that a hit-and-run suspect had reportedly fled to the water's edge and disappeared. Family told police the suspect, Javon Depass, 25, could not swim.

But after three days of police searches by land, water and air, Waters and other neighbors felt confident Depass was not submerged in their backyards. Neighbors pride themselves on the private lakes's cleanliness and the beauty of its plentiful coves. One longtime resident said it's 15 feet deep, at most.

"It worries me because I'm unsure," Waters said. "Finding him could be really disgusting and scary."

Again on Tuesday, Gwinnett police scoured the area with a cadaver dog and circled in a helicopter, as the Fire Department's Swiftwater Team patrolled the water. Searchers had drudged the lake near a dam that empties into the Yellow River, neighbors said.

No sign of Depass has been found, save the wallet he reportedly dropped as he ran to the water.

The original incident occurred about 12:10 a.m. Sunday. Police said Depass was driving a Nissan Maxima westbound on Stone Mountain Highway and veered to the right. He over-corrected to the left, crossing several lanes and slamming into a moving police car.

The police cruiser was pushed into oncoming traffic but avoided another collision. The officer complained of pain but avoided serious injury.

Depass kept driving for a short distance until he swerved off Lake Lucerne Drive and slammed into a utility pole. He then fled on foot, police said.

K-9 searchers on Depass' trail lost the scent at the water's edge.

"If he'd have had his wits about him," another neighbor said, "he'd have gotten out."

Depass' arrest record in Gwinnett shows a 2005 booking on misdemeanor simple battery charges. Those charges were dropped the following year.