Keara Cotton, the Georgia mom of a missing 4-year-old boy, was charged with murder this week after police said they found human remains while searching for the child.

Relatives of Cotton, 27, reported her son Jayceon Mathis missing last week, telling authorities that they had not seen the boy in months. On Sunday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced it could not locate Cotton to follow up on the complaint. 

She was tracked down and placed in state police custody on Monday night. Authorities said they found human remains in Cordele, some 10 miles south of Cotton’s home in Vienna. 

The 27-year-old mom is charged with murder, two counts of cruelty to children, and concealing a death. 

Mom and Son Disappear

According to local media accounts, the search for 4-year-old Jayceon began on Jan. 20. Concerned family members phoned the Vienna Police Department to tell officials they hadn’t seen the boy in months and were concerned for his well-being. 

The local police contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), a state-level law enforcement body, to assist them. But the police probe hit a snag early on when Jayceon’s mom Keara Cotton, who had custody of the boy before he went missing, was nowhere to be found.  

Four-year-old Jayceon Mathis was reported missing on Jan. 20. On Tuesday, his mother Keara Cotton was charged with his murder.
Four-year-old Jayceon Mathis was reported missing on Jan. 20. On Tuesday, his mother Keara Cotton was charged with his murder. Photo credit: GBI

The earliest reports of Jayceon’s disappearance mentioned that police were searching for a “young mother and her child” who had vanished “in the mid-state” area. The GBI issued a missing persons report for both of them on Monday. 

But just a few hours later, state officials announced that Cotton had been arrested and charged with two counts of cruelty to children. Authorities have not said where or when exactly the 27-year-old mom was apprehended, nor have they detailed the basis for the cruelty charges. 

By Tuesday morning, the GBI had added one count of murder and one count of concealing a death to Cotton’s rap sheet. 

The agency issued a press release announcing the new charges, writing that after Cotton’s arrest, “investigators obtained information that led to the discovery of human remains in Cordele, Crisp County near East Sixteenth Avenue” — just a 10-minute drive from the home in Vienna where Cotton and her son were living. 

GBI charged Keara Cotton with murder after it found human remains in the search for her missing son, 4-year-old Jayceon Mathis.
GBI charged Keara Cotton with murder after it found human remains in the search for her missing son, 4-year-old Jayceon Mathis. Photo credit: Google Maps

Detectives did not reveal the “information” that led them to the remains, nor have they said how it was “obtained.” The evidence gathered from Cordele, which has not been described in detail, will be sent along to the agency’s Medical Examiner’s Office in Atlanta for forensic identification, the release said. 

Keara Cotton Faces Murder Charges

Though the human remains have yet to be tested, state police charged Cotton with her son’s murder following the discovery. 

If convicted of the homicide charge, the 27-year-old mom could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole, per Georgia criminal codes.

Cotton was also charged with two counts of cruelty to children in the second degree, felonies defined by statute as causing “with criminal negligence […] cruel or excessive physical or mental pain” to a minor. Each carries between one and 10 years imprisonment, meaning that if Cotton is convicted on both counts, she will face a minimum of at least two years behind bars. 

Keara Cotton, 27, is cahrged with murder, cruelty to children, and concealing a death -- all felonies in the state of Georgia.
Keara Cotton, 27, is charged with murder, cruelty to children, and concealing a death — all felonies in the state of Georgia. Photo credit: GBI

The young mom is also formally accused of concealing a death, another felony that could earn her anywhere between one and 10 years in a state penitentiary. 

Cotton’s incarceration status was not clear on Tuesday. She does not appear on the Georgia state inmate roster, and records from the Doocy County jail were not immediately available. It’s unknown when the 27-year-old is due back in court, whether her bond amount was set, or if she has retained an attorney. 

This investigation is active and ongoing.  Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the GBI.  Anonymous tips can also be submitted by calling 1-800-597-TIPS (8477), online at https://gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online, or by downloading the See Something, Send Something mobile app.