Thursday, November 23, 2017
Public safety

Father of girl found dead in Riverview nature preserve no longer cooperating with investigators

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TAMPA — The father of a 13-year-old girl found dead in a Riverview nature preserve has stopped cooperating with investigators, a Hillsborough County Sheriff's official said Monday.

Nahshon Shannon, 37, was initially helpful and provided an interview after a decomposing body found in a remote section of Triple Creek Nature Preserve was identified as Janessa Shannon, his missing daughter, Col. Donna Lusczynski said at a news conference Monday.

But when investigators asked to search his home at 11219 Cocoa Beach Drive in Riverview, the last place where his daughter was seen alive, Shannon refused. He is now only communicating with the sheriff's office through his attorney, Lusczynski said.

The Sheriff's Office obtained a court-ordered search warrant for the Riverview home, which is listed in case documents as Janessa's primary address. She also lived part-time with her mother Michelle Mosley, 34, in Bradenton, Lusczynski said.

Lusczynski declined to say if investigators have identified a person of interest or suspect in the homicide case.

"We are not focusing on any one person right now," she said. "We're making sure we're talking to anyone involved and not excluding anyone."

Janessa's body was found by a hiker on July 12 — 11 days after Shannon said he last saw his daughter alive and 10 days after the sheriff's office was made aware she was missing.

Shannon, who is listed as an IT network professional on LinkedIn, did not return a request for comment Monday. In an earlier interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Shannon said Mosley sent his daughter to his house early as punishment for sneaking out of her Bradenton home to see a boy. He said he saw Janessa go to her room the night of Sunday, July 1, and didn't think anything of it when she didn't emerge the following morning.

He assumed she was sleeping in or was upset about her punishment and had gone for a walk to cool down. About 5 p.m., though, he went to her room to check on her and she wasn't there, Shannon said. Everything appeared normal, so he waited for her return.

About noon on July 3, Shannon reported his daughter's disappearance to the Sheriff's Office, he said. His first thought was that she had run away but he told deputies he couldn't be sure.

Lusczynski said both parents described the girl as a habitual runaway. Neither told investigators they suspected foul play, she said. If they had, Janessa might have met the agency's requirements to be considered an "endangered missing child."

Over the days that followed, Janessa's mother took to Facebook, pleading with friends to share Janessa's story and criticizing the sheriff's office for not alerting the media to Janessa's disappearance. Mosley and her three other daughters traversed the Bradenton and Riverview areas, passing out fliers and pulling others into the search. Nahshon Shannon said he also distributed fliers, spending nights in his car driving around the area, desperate to find his daughter. He also reported her absence to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Lusczynski defended her agency's decision to remain tight-lipped about the case, which wasn't publicized until the medical examiner's office identified Janessa's body on Saturday.

"We need to be deliberate and methodical in our investigations because what's most important to us is identifying this killer and putting them behind bars," Lusczynski said. "We take each case seriously. We have done what's required of us."

PREVIOUSLY: Mother of slain teen says she sneaked out before, but never stayed gone

"The Sheriff's Office did not release information about Janessa's disappearance for several reasons, Lusczynski said.

The girl did not fit the criteria for an Amber Alert because there was no indication of an abduction.

"We haven't had and still don't have an indication that was the case," she said.

Nor did Janessa meet the criteria for an endangered child because she did not have a history of mental health issues, had not made suicidal threats and was not on medication, Lusczynski said.

The Sheriff's Office considers the same criteria when deciding whether to release information about a missing child to the media, and did not release any information until the Medical Examiner confirmed the remains found in the nature preserve were Janessa's.

The agency has had more than 500 reports of missing juveniles this year, Lusczynski said.

"We try to put out the ones where someone is endangered and we feel the public could help," she said. "But we still treat the cases seriously and follow up on it."

The Sheriff's Office coordinated with the Bradenton Police Department to contact friends and associates and visit places where Janessa had gone before, Lusczynski said. Her name was entered into state and national law enforcement databases, investigators followed up on reported sightings and got a subpoena to monitor her social media sites.

"We never stopped looking for Janessa," she said.

Lusczynski declined to release information on how Janessa was killed, or what a hiker saw Wednesday morning when she discovered her body about a mile deep into the Riverview preserve.

"Only the killer would know that information and we don't want to tip our hand at this point," she said.

Investigators are asking anyone who might have information about the case to contact Crime Stoppers by calling (800) 873-8477, report anonymously online at www.crimestopperstb.com or send a mobile tip using the P3 Tips Mobile application. Tipsters who provide information leading to an arrest could be eligible for a reward of up to $3,000.

Contact Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

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