Friday, November 17, 2017
Public safety

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

RECOMMENDED READING


Thirteen-year-old Janessa Shannon was reported missing from her Riverview home two weeks ago, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Between there and Palmetto, where her mother lives, family and friends have been active on social media, pleading for help from authorities and exposure from the news media.

Their fears were confirmed Saturday when the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office announced that a body found earlier this week in a nature preserve was Janessa's. A hiker on Wednesday discovered her decomposing body a mile away from the entrance of the Triple Creek Nature Preserve at 13305 Balm Boyette Road.

The Sheriff's Office is treating her death as a homicide, though they have not disclosed how she died, or any other details about the case. It has also not previously publicized that the teen was missing.

In the days since her disappearance, people identifying themselves as friends and relatives of the girl have complained on social media that law enforcement had not treated Janessa's disappearance with urgency.

"I need Facebook help," wrote Eugene Shannon, identifying himself as the boyfriend of Janessa's mother, Michelle Mosley. "We've called everybody and we can't seem to get the help that we need. So I'm asking for Facebook help."

The mother also set up an online fundraising campaign seeking money to assist a search. It indicated Janessa lived with her father in Riverview.

Hillsborough County sheriff's spokeswoman Cristal Nuñez said the agency initially treated the case as though the child had run away from home because she had habitually done so.

In response to further questions about why law enforcement didn't draw more attention to the case, she responded in an email with the criteria for issuing an Amber Alert, which notifies the public of a child who has been abducted and may be in peril. They include that the child must be younger than 18 and that there's clear evidence of an abduction and that a child is endangered.

Children can be deemed endangered if they're younger than 12, have mental health concerns, including suicidal thoughts, or are in need of medication.

Triple Creek Preserve, where Janessa was found, consists of prairies, wooded areas and wetlands. It joins the nearly 6,000-acre Balm-Boyette Scrub Nature Preserve to the north.

The land is a popular destination for hikers and bikers and includes more than 20 miles of trails maintained by volunteers. It is intersected by three tributaries to the Alafia River: Bell Creek, Boggy Creek and Fish Hawk Creek, according to the county's website.

Staff writer Sara DiNatale contributed to this report. Contact Colleen Wright at cwright@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643. Follow @Colleen_Wright.

     
Comments
19 digital billboards now spread word of reward in Seminole Heights killings

19 digital billboards now spread word of reward in Seminole Heights killings

TAMPA — To help spread the word about reward money offered in connection with four unsolved shooting deaths in Seminole Heights, two billboard companies have donated the use of a combined 19 digital billboards.On Thursday, police announced the reward...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Deputies: No injuries after reported gunshot near Seminole schools

SEMINOLE — Deputies are investigating a report of a gunshot that resulted in two schools being put on lockdown Friday morning. About 8:24 a.m., the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office received a call at Rita’s Italian Ice, 13147 86th Ave., in Seminole. ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
20 injured in fire at Pennsylvania senior living community

20 injured in fire at Pennsylvania senior living community

WEST CHESTER, Pa. — A massive fire at a senior living community in Pennsylvania injured at least 20 people and forced dozens more, many of whom were unable to walk, into the cold night air. Firefighters were still dousing hot spots Friday, even thoug...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Watch: Dugan addresses Seminole Heights residents’ concerns at NAACP event

Watch: Dugan addresses Seminole Heights residents’ concerns at NAACP event

TAMPA — Members of the black community expressed appreciation on Thursday for police efforts to find the person responsible for killing four residents of southeast Seminole Heights in recent weeks.But at a meeting organized by the local chapter of th...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Tampa church warns: We are armed and ready to use deadly force

Tampa church warns: We are armed and ready to use deadly force

If you are an evildoer wishing to bring harm to the members of River at Tampa Bay Church, don’t expect congregants to turn the other cheek.They’ll blast you.So says a sign at the church, at 3738 River International Drive in Tampa, that delivers a sta...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Black residents question arrest spike during search for Seminole Heights killer

Black residents question arrest spike during search for Seminole Heights killer

TAMPA — Members of the black community expressed appreciation on Thursday for police efforts to find the person responsible for killing four residents of southeast Seminole Heights in recent weeks.But at a meeting organized by the local chapter of th...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Middle school student fatally struck in Tampa shortly after exiting school bus

TAMPA — A middle school student died after he was hit by a vehicle Thursday afternoon a short time after getting off of a school bus.According to Hillsborough County deputies, 11-year-old Brandon Heard Jr., a student at Mann Middle School, was struck...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Brooksville man accused of sexual abuse commits suicide, police say

Brooksville man accused of sexual abuse commits suicide, police say

A former Brooksville school volunteer accused of sexually assaulting teenage foreign exchange students who were under his care was found dead this week, a day before he was due in court on the charges.The body of Bruce McAllister was found at the bas...
Published: 11/16/17
Clearwater police searching for two men accused of stealing money from apartment drop boxes

Clearwater police searching for two men accused of stealing money from apartment drop boxes

CLEARWATER — Authorities are looking for two men accused of stealing rent checks and money orders from drop boxes at several apartment complexes.From Nov. 3 to 7, the men went to half a dozen apartment complexes, affecting about 40 people, according ...
Published: 11/16/17
Deputies: School instructor offered student $500 for sex

Deputies: School instructor offered student $500 for sex

WESLEY CHAPEL — A former instructor at Cypress Creek High School was arrested Wednesday, after deputies say he offered a student $500 in exchange for sex. William Henson, 21, now faces a felony charge of sexual battery for soliciting a person under 1...
Published: 11/16/17