LaShaya Stine, Still Missing After 4 Years

LaShaya Stine, Still Missing After 4 Years

The family of LaShaya Stine is still waiting anxiously for answers in her mysterious disappearance. LaShaya was 16 years old and living in Aurora, Colorado with her family when she disappeared in 2016. For almost four years, investigators have been trying to answer the curious questions about that night, including why would a young teen girl suddenly leave her house in the middle of the night?

LaShaya Stine was a bright and diligent student who was on the honor roll at George Washington High School in Aurora. She was on the professional track to become a nurse and devote her life to caring for others. Great things were on the horizon for her, including an internship with the University of Chicago hospital and a potential new job opportunity.

The night of July 15, LaShaya Stine was mentally preparing for that job interview the next day. When her mother, Sabrina Jones, went to bed that evening, LaShaya was still in the house. The next morning, when Sabrina went to wake her daughter for her job interview, she realized Sabrina was gone. Sabrina grabbed the phone and called her daughter’s cell number, but the line went straight to voicemail. The family combed the neighborhood looking for her, but turned up nothing. That’s when the family contacted the authorities and filed a missing person report.

Unfortunately, the investigators at the time treated LaShaya’s case as that of a runaway. It’s not uncommon, when a missing person case gets labeled as a “runaway” case, that investigators will be slow to act or less than thorough when it comes to following up with leads. Another case might be prioritized over a “runaway” case because it deals with a subject who doesn’t want to be found. It wasn’t until a week after her disappearance was reported that the police chief put a new set of eyes on the case.

CCTV footage near LaShaya’s home revealed that she was out walking along East Montview Boulevard around 2:30 am. When investigators showed the footage to her mother, Sabrina Jones said that it was likely her daughter had gone to meet someone, and had every intention to return to the house—seeing as how all of her personal effects, including her wallet and cell phone, had been left behind. The next logical step was to interview the people in LaShaya’s life, primarily her friends. HOweve,r after multiple interviews with LaShaya’s ex-boyfriend and close friends, police still had not generated any promising leads. Seeing as how the investigators had no proof of foul play, it was extremely difficult for them to move forward.

In the years since LaShaya Stine was reported missing, there have been multiple alleged sightings of LaShaya that corroborate theories that she might have become a victim of sex trafficking, such as her coming and going from motels that were known for facilitating sexwork. The witnesses claimed she was in the custody of a man who might have been transporting her across state lines. One girl who was successfully recovered from sex trafficking claimed to have been trafficked with LaShaya, and described a scar on her chest. Despite police follow up, LaShaya was never found at any of the alleged sightings.

The FBI has joined the search for LaShaya, and the case is still being investigated.  If you have any sort of information regarding this case, please contact the Aurora Police Department at 303-739-6164 and Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867.

The Aurora Police Department, Metro Denver Crime Stoppers and FBI are offering rewards totaling $15,000 for information that helps them find LaShaya.

Julia Mann Still Missing Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

Julia Mann Still Missing Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

Julia Mann Missing Child

During a pandemic, it may be hard to think about anything else besides spread of infection, and the death and misfortune laid at the feed of many. The family of Julia Mann is facing an added layer of horror in these troubling times—the frightening nebulous of “what if” in the case of a missing child.

You may have never heard Julia Mann’s name before this moment, and you can thank that in part to the coverage of the world’s current global pandemic and the spread of COVID-19. Crucial coverage of the pandemic has created an unexpected challenge in media campaigns for missing persons. The key in any missing person investigation is to keep their face in the media and the public eye, and with coronavirus coverage already taking up a great deal of airtime, exposure is limited. Julia’s mother Terrie told Dateline, “I’m worried she’ll be forgotten. We’ve been living in this nightmare since February and now with coronavirus, everything has stalled. And it’s just a scary time out there right now, and I’m even more worried.”

It has now been 11 weeks since 17-year-old Julia Mann disappeared from her grandparent’s home in Watkinsville, Georgia. She was last seen by her grandfather around 10:00 on the night of February 20, 2020, just before the family settled down for the night. When her grandparents woke the next morning, Julia was gone. The only other principle details that have been released to the public is that both Julia’s cell phone and laptop went missing as well, but neither have been used since she went missing. Law enforcement appears certain that Julia left the house on her own, but because her phone and social media accounts have gone dark since her disappearance, police concerns for her safety are heightened.

With authorities claiming Julia left her grandparents’ house of her own accord, the remaining question is why? Julia’s family insists that there is no reason their daughter would have run away, and even if it were possible, she took so little with her—just the cell phone and the laptop. If this was a teenager running away from home, surely she would take more belongings with her. One very sentimental item Julia left behind was a keychain that had been a gift from her little sister, with whom she is very close.

The fact that Julia took her laptop with her when she left the house has lead authorities to consider the possibility that she was lured from the house by a predator. Julia was reportedly involved in online role-playing games. It is shockingly common for predators to use online gaming platforms to groom and lure children from their homes. Among other theories, this is just one that leads authorities to believe that Julia has very likely been met with harm.

Julia Mann is 5’3” tall, weighing around 100 lbs, has blonde hair and several ear piercings. The sheriff’s office did not release a description of what clothing Juliawas wearing at the last time she was seen, but her mother believes she was wearing a lightweight puffer jacket and blue two-toned Vans, which are the only shoes missing from her room. Her mother Terrie has said she fears her daughter is being held against her will and abused by her captor.

Anyone with information on Julia’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office at 706-769-3945.

Three Stories of Mysterious Indiana Missing Persons Cases

Three Stories of Mysterious Indiana Missing Persons Cases

Commonly called America’s Corn Belt, southern Indiana is a fertile state where you can find hilly farmland that stretches into the states of Illinois and Iowa on up to the higher hills and majestic glacial kettle lakes. A place where families gather for holidays and traditional family values are still alive and well.

But Indiana also has a dark side where the light has been overshadowed by fear. A place where those who have vanished have left no trace. 

Denise Pflum

Missing women in Indiana
(Denise Pflum, 18, was last seen leaving her home March 28, 1986 from Connersville, Indiana.)   

The Disappearance 

Denise Pflum, 18, was last seen leaving her house on March 28, 1986, in Connersville, Indiana. An honors student, a brilliant artist, and a promising scientist, Denise was the apple of her father’s eye. 

“It was Good Friday. A beautiful Good Friday weather-wise,” said her father David Pflum. Now, 33 years later, she remains missing and still no answers as to what transpired that day.

It started with a house party she went to the night before her disappearance. Denise forgot her purse so the following day she told her family that she had plans to go search for it. It would be the last time anyone would ever see Denise again.

“We do not believe that she ever went back to that area—something or some person interrupted that opportunity to do that,” said David. “We knew right away that something was wrong because she had never been out without our knowledge about where she was going to be. When time unfolded into the next day and the subsequent next days then we knew we really had a problem and the problem has continued on now for 32 years,” David told WTHR 13 in 2018. 

The neverending nightmare continues for the Pflum family. 

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(An honor roll student and high achiever, Denise Pflum vanished one month before her highschool prom in 1986.)

A Rising Star

Active in track, volleyball, softball, and basketball, her activities included 4-H. She was also the top of her class at Connersville High School. She planned to go to Miami University in Ohio to major in microbiology, but the bright light of her future was suddenly snuffed out. 

With her prom dress already picked out, a month before her prom the highschool senior would vanish in broad daylight. 

A family left tormented. “There are days that go by and it is almost like you are floating because you are so consumed by the thought and the various thoughts about what has happened to your daughter, who is responsible, what kind of action took place,” said David.

Advancing Technology

The day after Denise’s disappearance her Buick Regal was found in a rural farm in the neighboring town of Greenwood. In 1986, the car was processed by police for fingerprints and other evidence but none was found. 

In recent years, with advancing technology, police collected DNA samples from the family, along with a DNA sample from Denise they were able to obtain through evidence. Those DNA samples were uploaded into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a national database at the FBI. 

With the advancement in technology, evidence was resubmitted to the Indiana State Police lab to check for any new results but those tests produced no new results. 

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(David and Judy Pflum with family and law enforcement distributing fliers on what would have been Denise’s 51st birthday on January 14,2018.)

Now in their 70s, David and Judy Pflum fear they will pass without knowing what happened to their daughter.

“We feel compelled to keep looking. You don’t give up, you spend your life looking,” Judy said. 

Karena McClerkin

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(Karena McClerkin was last seen October 11, 2016, near her home in Kokomo, Indiana.)

Kokomo is a small city with a population of only 40,000. During 2017, there were only 6 reported homicides, that were all solved. A safe town where abductions of young girls just don’t happen. In fact, there are only three unsolved disappearances in Kokomo history.

On October 11, 2016, Karena McClerkin, 18, was last seen walking in the 1000 block of South Washington Street in Kokomo, Indiana. She left her wallet and identification behind and has never been seen or heard from again.

Police have executed search warrants and pursued several leads over the past three years but none have led them any closer to finding her.

The McClerkin family has hired four private investigators over the years to help follow up on leads, including a tip from an inmate who claimed to know where Karena was buried. However, that tip and so many others have gone nowhere. 

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(Karena McClerkin’s father, James McClerkin has been tirelessly searching for his daughter since the day she disappeared in October 2016. Photo courtesy of RTV6.) 

A Father’s Promise

Karena’s father, James McClerkin has been tirelessly searching for his daughter since her disappearance. James has handed out hundreds of fliers while canvassing the neighborhoods where his daughter went missing. 

 “I just need answers,” James said. “I just need people to talk. It’s not snitching — trying to help find a kid.” 

For James time has been the enemy. 

Kokomo Police Department has continued to investigate the case, even bringing in cadaver dogs to search portions of Howard County. They also offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to Karena’s whereabouts and arrest of the individual responsible for her disappearance,  all to no avail.

However, James didn’t want to stop there. The previous reward would have only been awarded if there was an arrest . . . now James just wants answers. James is now preparing to withdraw his 401k and use the $75,000 to create a reward that simply leads to her whereabouts. 

“It’s just to keep her alive, keep it going, and keep the information out there,” said James. “I’m just trying to get new details back in. Right now we don’t have anything . . . All it has to do is lead to my daughter. It doesn’t have to lead to an arrest or anything, just my daughter, her body, or herself. They can have the cash.” 

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(Karena’s grandmother Gerry McClerkin holding her picture on the front stoop of her home.)

Grandmother’s Heart is Broken

Gerry McClerkin is Karena’s grandmother and when the two spent time together they would always hold hands. 

“I didn’t get to see her all the time, but when I did and we said goodbye, we’d both cry almost every time,” Gerry told Dateline.” When I think about the last time I said goodbye to her, it’s even more heartbreaking now.”

Things were rough for Karena prior to her disappearance.  Karena had been dealing with a number of substance abuse issues. Her grandmother recalls seeing her hanging out with an older crowd, and very concerned about her granddaughter’s future. 

“I told her not to go down that path. That there were other, bigger things she could do with her life,” Gerry said. “She had her whole life in front of her.”

Prior to the disappearance, Karena seemed to be listening, as she had talked about going into a rehabilitation facility in Florida. She began to fill out the paperwork.

Then she vanished.

Rumors began swirling around town right away and some of the stories continue to haunt Gerry. She heard Karena’s body had been thrown into a waterway to conceal the crime, and that her granddaughter had been killed and buried in a tarp in a wooded area. Those are not the worst Gerry has heard.

“It’s just a horrible mess, and the things you hear just make you sick,” said Gerry. “I didn’t want to believe she is dead. It took me a while to accept that idea.”

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(Gerry McClerkin, Karena’s grandmother believes there should be more media interest in her daughter’s case.)

Lack of Media Interest

Another thing that bothers the McClerkin family is the lack of interest on behalf of the media and the authorities.

Gerry doesn’t believe Kokomo police have taken the disappearance seriously and failed to follow up on leads reported to them.

“Every and all leads are being investigated,” Captain Cockrell told Dateline. “The family has been updated on all searches. It’s not just leads we are following up on, it’s any and all avenues in relation to this case.” 

Gerry wishes her granddaughter’s case was all over the news like other cases in the state. “Because of her race and age and the situation, no one seems to care,” Gerry told Dateline. “None of it means she isn’t important. Every person is important and that includes my granddaughter.” 

“She may have been out there since October. All alone. But where?” said Gerry. We aren’t going to give up until we find her.” 

Lauren Spierer

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(Lauren Spierer, 20, vanished from downtown Bloomington, Indiana on June 3, 2011).

Lauren Spierer, 20, a sophomore from New York was attending Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. On June 3, 2011, she went out on the town with friends and vanished from downtown Bloomington as she was walking home to her Smallwood Plaza apartment at approximately 4:30 a.m., in the vicinity of 11th Street and College Avenue. 

Lauren had left the bar without her shoes or cell phone and later seen on surveillance stumbling out of an elevator at her apartment. 

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(Captain Joe Qualters of the Bloomington Police Department displays video surveillance photograph  of a vehicle seen in the area on the night Lauren Spierer vanished.)

Lauren’s case has received national attention and the Bloomington Police Department says the case is still a top priority.

As of May 24, 2013, investigators have received 3,060 tips on Lauren’s disappearance, 100 of them being received during the first half of 2013. 

On January  28, 2016, the FBI conducted a raid of a home in Martinsville, Indiana, approximately 20 miles north of Bloomington. Police said the raid was connected to a man suspected of exposing himself to women. 

Thousands of other leads have been followed throughout the years but none have led police any closer to deliver answers to the Spierers. 

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(Rob and Charlene Spierer commemorate the date of Lauren’s disappearance with a letter to her abductor.)

A Mother’s Letter

It has been eight years of not knowing for Lauren’s family, but they say they still hope someone will eventually reveal the “brutal truth.”

This year, on the eighth anniversary of Lauren’s disappearance, Lauren’s mother Charlene wrote a Facebook post to Lauren’s abductor just like she has done in the past. Her letters give a glimpse into the ambiguity and loss the parents of missing children experience and the never-ending roller coaster they ride. 

“Eight years after Lauren’s disappearance and we are no closer to finding her or getting answers. The expression, “the more things change the more they stay the same” seems apropos. We continue living in the past and in the present.

No one escapes this life unscathed. Everyone has struggles and somehow, we all survive but it is not without costs.

As every June 3rd approaches, I am faced with the dread of reliving all the horrific minutes of that day and the days which followed. I now know of course, despite how desperately I wanted to believe the words “we will find her, it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Our timeline has no end. It begins with a phone call from my husband who heard the news that Lauren was missing from our older daughter, Rebecca. In an instant, our family was irrevocably changed. The not knowing is almost unbearable. 

Over the course of these last 8 years we have tried our hardest to get answers but the brutal truth, the only truth, is that any resolution depends on someone willing to come forward with information.

Despite everything, something propels us forward. Of course, it is hope. Hope that today someone will have the courage, to tell the truth, or send an email or make a call or post a lead on social media.

We still have a PO box in Bloomington, just waiting to receive a letter with words that will lead us to the truth. It remains unfilled. Another dead end. No tips or leads have ever been sent which took us one step closer.

Logically you think…it’s anonymous…what you don’t realize is that the monster responsible for Lauren’s disappearance simply does not care.

Hope is a strange bedfellow. Some days you want to abandon all hope but our desire to bring Lauren home whether literally or figuratively is a strong motivator.

To those responsible, you’ve moved on, but we have not. We will never give up. There is always someone actively working to find you. SOMEONE IS ALWAYS LOOKING FOR YOU. 

How ironic, just as we are looking for Lauren, we are just as diligently looking for you. I have to believe that someday you will let your guard down. You will need to share your truth and it will just be too big for the person you’ve told to keep it to themselves. That is what we hope for.

Missing you Lauren. Loving you with all our hearts.

Eight years later…. Just as determined as day one.
Hoping today is the day.”
Charlene Spierer

Charlene works tirelessly to find her daughter and runs a website and the Official Lauren Spierer Updates from Her Family Facebook page. In the midst of the ambiguity, she is somehow able to function to help continue to raise awareness of her daughter’s disappearance.

The Spierer’s don’t believe their daughter is alive. It’s a potential reality that many parents can never bring themselves to. 

Robert Spierer told the Journal News that both parents are trying to be realistic. 

“We know that is she had the chance to reach out to us, she would have done it,” he said.

While parents of missing children await answers, as days and years drag on, one thing remains very clear. The light of their children’s hearts will forever shine bright in theirs. 

How Missing Person Organizations Benefit Us All

How Missing Person Organizations Benefit Us All

Tragedies can affect communities and society as a whole. Sometimes it only takes one person to make a difference that impacts us all.

Missing Person organizations support families in their time of crisis, and missing person investigators help them get the support they need.
(Morgan Nick vanished on June 9, 1995, in the small town of Alma, Ark.)

It was 24 years ago, on June 9, 1995, that a little girl vanished at a Little League baseball game in the small town of Alma, Ark., within the River Valley at the edge of the majestic Ozark Mountains. Beautiful Morgan Chauntel Nick, age 6, with long blonde hair and blue eyes has not been seen since.

Morgan Nick is the eldest of three other children. She loved cats and according to her mother Colleen Nick, she was a shy little girl. A Girl Scout, Morgan loved bubble gum and said she wanted to be a doctor or a circus performer when she grew up.

(The baseball park in Alma, Ark., where Morgan Nick vanished.)

The evening of her disappearance, a friend of the Nick family had invited them to a baseball game about 30 minutes away. Colleen told Dateline; the game started late at approximately 9:00 p.m. that night.

Morgan sat in the bleachers with her mom nearly the entirety of the game but towards the end, two kids, a boy and a girl, a few years older than Morgan, asked if Morgan could go catch fireflies with them.

Colleen recalls initially telling Morgan no, but other parents told the worried mother that the kids play in the parking lot all of the time and would be safe.

Colleen ended up telling Morgan she could go play with the other children. “She threw her arms around my neck, kissed my cheek, then the kids all ran out to the parking lot,” said Colleen. “I could turn my head and see she was right there in sight. I checked on them three or four times.”

At the end of the baseball game, Colleen watched as the team walked off the field, momentarily looking away from Morgan who was playing behind the bleachers. When she turned around, she could see the two other children, but Morgan was no longer with them.

Colleen asked the children where Morgan was, and they told her Morgan was at her car emptying sand out of her shoes. “Already, when I couldn’t see Morgan, my heart started beating really fast,” Colleen said in a Dateline interview. “We were somewhere we hadn’t been before. She wouldn’t go anywhere by herself, and there wasn’t even anywhere to go,” Colleen said. “There was no concession stands, no bathrooms.”

Confusion and panic set in for Colleen.

Within minutes a spectator called the police to report Morgan missing. Police responded within six minutes.

Chief Russell White of the Alma Police Department told Dateline that the initial officer on the scene immediately suspected “we might have a bigger problem.” “They did have a lot of manpower or resources, but they did a whole lot right that first night,” Colleen said.

“The other two kids that were playing with Morgan separately told the police about a creepy man in a red pick-up truck with a white camper shell on the back,” Colleen said.

Authorities immediately began an intensive investigation.

“We reached out for help from local agencies, the state police, the FBI,” Chief White said. “We were running a pretty big crew. The FBI brought in lots of extra people and resources and we did not have, like a computer system that could handle this kind of case, which helped tremendously.”

According to Colleen, Morgan’s case files fill up an entire room at the police department. “We have tons of tips coming in every week,” Chief White said. “It’s very unusual for a 24-year-old case to still have so many leads.”

Despite the thousands of leads received in Morgan’s case, she remains missing.

(Colleen Nick, mother of 6-year-old Morgan Nick who vanished June 9, 1995, from Alma, Ark.)

A Mother Fights Back

“She’s not a number. She’s not a statistic. She’s not a case file. She is a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a friend. And she is someone worth fighting for,” Colleen told Dateline. “If you’re not on the front line fighting for your daughter, no one else will. So, it is my job to make sure she never gets lost. Until someone can prove to me that Morgan is not coming home, then I am going to fight for her.”

In the years following Morgan’s disappearance, Colleen started the Morgan Nick Foundation to help prevent other families from going through what she has experienced, to raise awareness of other missing children, and educate the public on safety for children. The foundation also provides crucial support to other families of missing children.

Over the years Colleen has received a countless number of recognitions and awards from the FBI, state of Arkansas, to the International Homicide Investigator’s Association, for her work throughout the state of Arkansas throughout the country.

“When something so tragic happens to your child, there is a need to do something of great value,” said Colleen. “We are trying to fill the gap that wasn’t filled when we needed it the most.”

24 years later, Colleen continues to selflessly work within her community and nationwide to the benefit of families and children throughout the country.

The National Impact of John Walsh

(Adam Walsh, age 6, who was abducted from a Sears department store and murdered July 27, 1981, in Hollywood, Fla.)

We often forget there is a personal story behind many monumental efforts in this nation and John Walsh is certainly the epitome.

Adam Walsh, age 6, was a little boy whose disappearance and murder changed the way society looked at missing children.

On the afternoon of July 27, 1981, Adam’s mother took him shopping at a local mall in Hollywood, Fla. Reve Walsh had wanted to inquire about the price of a lamp at the Sears department store.

Momentarily, Reve left Adam at an Atari video game display where several other little boys were taking turns playing on the display. When Reve returned, she couldn’t find Adam or the other boys and was told by the store manager that the security guard had asked them all to leave the store.

Adam was paged over the intercom as his mother searched the store and mall for about an hour. She then called the Hollywood Police Department at approximately 1:55 p.m. to report Adam missing.

Tragically, on August 10, 1981, a severed head of a child was found in a drainage canal alongside the Florida Turnpike in Vero Beach, about 130 miles from Hollywood. It was confirmed it was Adam. His body has never been found.

(John Walsh, creator and host of America’s Most Wanted which first aired in 1988. Photo courtesy of Fox 5 News.)

A Legacy

Early on, Adam’s parents John and Reve Walsh were critical of the police investigation which led to John’s anti-crime activism and the creation of America’s Most Wanted which he is well known for.

Lesser known is his impact on laws and organizations for missing children. During the 1980s, John and other child advocates lobbied Congress to pass a law that would protect missing children and educate the public on the importance of child safety resulting in the Missing Children’s Assistance Act and the first national clearinghouse of information for missing children.

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

In 1984, the United States Congress passed the Missing Children’s Assistance Act, signed by President Ronald Reagan creating the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and a 24-hour hotline 1-800-THE-LOST.

Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, NCMEC has regional office in California, Florida, New York and Texas.

According to NCMEC, in 2018 there were 424,066 entries of missing children in the FBI National Crime Information Center (NCIC).

35 years later, NCMEC provides support to thousands of families of missing children each year, missing children’s case management, provides training to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, and offers numerous educational programs that fight child exploitation, sex trafficking, and provides critical information to keep our children safe.

Black & Missing Foundation

Tamika Huston vanished into thin air on or around May 27, 2004, from Spartanburg, S.C. and subsequently found murdered.

Spartanburg was Derrica Wilson’s hometown and she recalls watching as Tamika’s family struggled to gain any media coverage on a local or national level while Tamika was missing. A few months later, Natalee Holloway – a white woman – went missing and dominated news headlines, becoming a household name.

“It was heartbreaking to see the difference in the media attention these two cases were getting,” Derrica told Jet Magazine.

(Natalie (left) and Derrica Wilson, co-founders of Black and Missing Foundation. Photo courtesy of Jet Magazine.)

Derrica and her sister-in-law Natalie decided to team up to ensure other families did not face the obscurity that Tamika’s family had experienced. “We combined our professional backgrounds – mine in law enforcement and Natalie’s in media – to create an organization that joins the very important elements in the field of missing persons,” said Derrica.

Founded in 2008, a veteran law enforcement official and a public relations specialist began channeling their skills for a greater good.

Eleven years later, Black and Missing Foundation has become the primary voice for minority missing providing a platform of hope for the overwhelming number of missing persons of color.

AMBER Alert

(Amber Hagerman was abducted and murdered on January 13, 1996, in Arlington, Texas.)

On the afternoon of January 13, 1996, 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was last seen riding her bike in a parking lot near her home in Arlington, Texas. A witness reported seeing a man in a black, flat-bed truck snatch Amber from her bicycle.

Four days later, Amber’s body was found in a creek approximately 3.2 miles from her home. Her murder remains unsolved.

Area residents were outraged and began calling radio and television stations to vent their anger and to also offer suggestions to prevent such crimes in the future. One resident, Diana Simone suggested utilizing the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to notify the public when a child has been abducted so the public could also assist in the search. Simone followed up with a letter, with her only request to ensure the program would be dedicated to Amber Hagerman.

The program was eventually taken to NCMEC with a request to implement a national initiative that would eventually become known as the AMBER Alert. What began as a local effort in the area of the Dallas-Fort Worth area has grown into a seamless system used by every state in the country. Since the inception of the program in 1996, through December 31, 2018, 956 children have been safely recovered specifically as a result of an AMBER Alert being issued.

 “When something so tragic happens to your child, there is a need to do something of great value,” as Colleen said. “We are trying to fill the gap that wasn’t filled when we needed it the most.” Most certainly, the advancements made in the last 35 years are proof the efforts of one person can make a difference.

Police Identify Remains of Jabez Spann

Police Identify Remains of Jabez Spann

Last week, Tawana, the mother of Jabez Spann, received the closure she’d been chasing since September 4, 2017. That Labor Day weekend was the last time she saw her son alive. The Sarasota teen went missing from his own front yard after having attended a candlelight vigil being held two blocks from his home. After a torturous 18 months without answers, she finally received the news she dreaded. Two men were checking a fence in a pasture in Manatee County when they made a grisly discovery: A human skull. They called 911. The remains of Jabez Spann identified from dental records. Sarasota Police Deputy Chief Pat Robinson said in a press conference, “Today, I am sad to report that we were not able to recover Mr. Spann living and return him to his family.”

To tell the full story of Jabez’s disappearance, you have to go all the way back to August, 2017, and the death of another man in Jabez’s life. In late August of 2017, Travis Combs, 31, was fatally shot and killed, with law enforcement investigating his death as a homicide. When the news broke about Jabez’s disappearance, one of the dominating bylines denoted him as a witness to a murder, having been named in a probable cause affidavit for a suspect. Reginald Parker, 55, claimed to have witnessed the shooting of Travis Combs, and allegedly told several individuals that he had witnessed it in November of 2017. These individuals were interviewed by police, corroborating what Parker had told them. Prior to Parker’s arrest on 2017, Jabez’s presence at the crime scene was merely a neighborhood rumor. The publishing of the arrest probable cause affidavit confirmed his presence at the crime scene that night.

Combs’ case eventually became overshadowed by the disappearance of Jabez Spann in media coverage, as he went missing less than a week later. The facts of the case as we know it read more like an edgy police procedural—a teenage boy, having already allegedly witnessed a violent crime, disappears without a trace, and police find themselves stymied. He disappeared less than 200 yards away from where Combs’ body was discovered. After Jabez’s remains were found, Police Deputy Chief Pat Robinson claimed that “hundreds upon hundreds” of hours have been logged in this investigation, citing that Jabez’s family has been a valuable asset to investigators. He also noted in a press conference that this case is personal for law enforcement, like many cases involving teens or young children, “Many of our detectives…have children of their own. I’m a father, as the sheriff. I can’t imagine having that information broken to me about my son. There’s been highs and lows in this investigation where there’ve been sightings and tips and things we’ve followed up on. And every time it’s a peak and a valley, [the family] stood with us, and our investigation team, every step of the way.”  At that same press conference, police noted that they did not believe Jabez left Sarasota of his own volition.

The two men who called 911 told the dispatcher they did not see signs of a weapon at the site—just the skull and “some bones.” It was the break that came after 18 months of following over 100 tips reported to law enforcement that proved to be dead ends. Members of the community have found the news of the discovery bittersweet, like activist Wayne Washington, “You can’t just hurt a child in our community and think that you can live life and everything is going to be sweet. The emotions are very high because I wish that he was alive, but by the family finally finding him they can get the closure they need as a family.” Over the course of the investigation, the reward sum for any information leading to the whereabouts of Jabez Spann had grown to $50,000. Police have yet to say if or how the funds will be disbursed.

Despite the heartbreaking news in her son’s case, his mother remains steadfast in looking towards the future. Since the time her son disappeared, she believed he witnessed a brutal murder, and the person responsible had a hand in making him disappear. She now wants to see that person answer for their actions, “We’re going to move forward in the hopes that they can find whoever did this. Those last moments that you caused him, that you did to him when he was helpless and couldn’t call on anybody…that’s what I want to see justice for. We got some closure. We’re going to put him in peace and lay him to rest. We’re not done.”