Friday, November 17, 2017
Public safety

Mother of slain girl, 13, says she sneaked out but 'never stayed gone'

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RIVERVIEW — Janessa Shannon had sneaked out of her mother's Bradenton home before. So Michelle Mosley wasn't happy when she found out her 13-year-old daughter had done it again, winding up at a boy's house.

As punishment, Janessa was returned to her father's home in Riverview a day early, Mosley said Sunday. It was the last time she would see her daughter.

The father, Nahshon Shannon, grounded her that night. He checked on Janessa the following day, he said, and found no one in her bedroom at his home at 11219 Cocoa Beach Drive. He reported her disappearance to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office on July 3, a Monday.

Nine days later, a hiker would come across the teen's decomposing body in the woods of the Triple Creek Nature Preserve. The Sheriff's Office is treating her death as a homicide but released few other details. Agency officials never publicized her disappearance, later saying she was a habitual runaway and the case was treated as such.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Body found in Hillsborough preserve identified as missing 13-year-old girl

Mosley, 34, said she doesn't consider her daughter a habitual runaway, noting that she usually heard from Janessa if she left.

"She had snuck out before," Mosley said. "But she never stayed gone."

The frantic mother took to Facebook, pleading with friends to share Janessa's story. She and her three other daughters traversed the Bradenton and Riverview areas passing out fliers and pulling others into the search. Nahshon Shannon, too, said he distributed fliers, drove around the area and canvassed his neighborhood, desperate to find his daughter.

He reported her absence to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Meanwhile, the local agency the family enlisted for help, the Sheriff's Office, stayed tight-lipped. The first information released to the public on Janessa's disappearance came Saturday, when the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner confirmed the body was Janessa.

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cristal Nuñez would not disclose details Sunday of the agency's efforts to locate the girl. Nor would she say if there is a person of interest to investigators.

"Our first priority is to put someone in handcuffs," Nuñez said, "not to get out information that could compromise that."

She said a colonel will answer questions at a news conference Monday.

In an interview Sunday, Nahshon Shannon, 37, gave this account of the circumstances leading up to her disappearance:

After arriving from Bradenton, Janessa ate dinner, then went to her room on the night of July 1. He didn't see her around the house the next day as he went in and out going about his regular routine, he said. He didn't check on her again until about 5 p.m. July 2. When he opened her bedroom door, the room looked normal, but she wasn't there.

He assumed she was upset that she was being punished and had gone for a walk. But she didn't return, he said.

He reported it to the Sheriff's Office about noon on July 3, he said. His first thought was that she had run away, but he told deputies he couldn't be sure.

Both he and Mosley questioned why more wasn't done to find her.

"I wanted them to search for her, be active," he said. "My daughter is a beautiful spirit, a spirited young person ... I hope we find out exactly what happened to her, and the person responsible."

On Saturday, Hillsborough County deputies surrounded Nahshon Shannon's home in the Riverview neighborhood of Rivercrest. Three forensic trucks were at the scene. Neighbors said he has lived there for just over three years.

By evening, crime scene tape blocked off his front and back yard as deputies went in and out of the home with cameras and evidence bags. At one point, they carried out a window screen.

Sabrena Remillard, a neighbor for more than a year, said Shannon appeared to have a good relationship with his daughter.

Remillard, 45, said she helped the girl's father plaster missing person fliers all around the area, taping one to the inside of a window on her blue Dodge Charger.

When she walked outside to see her street flooded with investigators on Saturday, the day Janessa's body was identified, Remillard said she felt sadness but also anger.

"Her face should've been on every news station on God's green Earth," Remillard said, "but instead we're having to bury her."

Remillard, along with other friends and family of Janessa, say the agency should have put out a public notice that the girl was missing. She said it could have improved the chance of her being found earlier, and most importantly, alive.

Janessa has spent much of her life going back and forth between her parents' houses, Mosley said. At her dad's, she attended Rodgers Middle School during the school year and was going to Eisenhower Middle School for summer school to improve her grades, Nahshon Shannon said. She spent some weekends at her mother's house, learning to fish from Mosley's boyfriend and hanging out with her three sisters, Destiny, 19; Casia, 15; and Jalyssa, 12.

About 50 people gathered Sunday night for a vigil at a home in West Palmetto, including children on the sidewalk who held up posters, one proclaiming, "We all love you, Janessa Shannon."

Before the gathering broke up, 13 blue balloons floated to the sky in remembrance of Janessa's short life.

Mosley remembered on Sunday the last conversation they had before Janessa's father picked her up.

It was after a family day at the beach, and Mosley was telling her why she was going back to her dad's early, and why she shouldn't sneak out anymore.

"I just explained to her ... that I cared about her, loved her," Mosley said, "and I don't want anything bad to ever happen to her."

Times staff writers Colleen Wright, Sara DiNatale and senior researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or kvarn@tampabay.com. Follow @kathrynvarn.

     
                                   
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