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‘No child has ever gone missing from Sarasota’: Search intensifies for boy who disappeared after reportedly witnessing a murder; up to $50K reward offered

Atlanta’s Cold Case Investigative Research Institute director, Sheryl McCollum, dives deep into the case of missing teen, Jabez Spann

He was born in prison. His mother named him Jabez from the Bible. Florida’s protective services took him.  His grandmother had to search for him and fight to get him back. That irony is hauntingly painful today.   Jabez is missing. His grandmother and mother desperately want their boy back. The police and the FBI are searching and trying to figure out what happened to this vivacious 14-year-old.

Jabez Spann is a good looking, happy, football star with a brilliant smile. That easy smile and ready jokes is how most people describe him. In September, all the smiles and jokes stopped.  Word on the street is that Jabez witnessed a murder. Then, just like in a movie, Jabez disappeared without a trace. No one has seen or heard from him since September 4, 2017.

The murder victim was Travis Combs. He was visiting friends in the Newtown neighborhood in Sarasota. It appears to some that Travis’ murder was a crime of opportunity, maybe a robbery by someone he knew.  Jabez was supposedly seen at the crime scene. The person that puts Jabez at the murder scene is allegedly Reginald Parker.

Parker told Jabez’s family that on August 28 Jabez witnessed the murder and said, “y’all killed him?”

Mr. Parker repeated this story to the family’s private investigator. Parker has now changed his story. He told the police he never said that and does not know what happened to Jabez. To add to the twist and turns to this case Travis’ case is also unsolved.

Even more interesting, police arrested Mr. Parker on November 7 for failing to report he vacated a house within 48 hours. You see, Mr. Parker is a sex offender is and required by law to report a change in address with 48 hours. Reginald Parker has now been charged with accessory after that fact in the Combs murder.

Jabez Spann [Photo: Family Handout]
Jabez’s mom served time in prison. She is honest about her life and every decision she has made, good and bad.   She will tell you she manufactured drugs and has served her time.  She will tell you she has one son in prison now and another that just got released from “a program”. Life is “hard when you come from that life.”

She is street wise and hard but somehow her kindness and loving instincts are just as strong as her survival instincts and “anything to make it” attitude. In my line of work, I rarely talk with anyone so open and honest. I am used to people lying to me or holding back on facts.  Tawana is real. She is down to earth and exposed.

FURTHER Reading: Jabez Spann: Reward doubled for missing teen who possibly witnessed a murder [UPDATE]

She gave her baby to her mother to raise while she was in prison. The two of them “co-parent” today.  Both trying to give Jabez the best of them. They give him love and care, support his football dreams and his desire for a better life.

Jabez loves his grandmother’s cooking and real Southern down-home meals. Like most teenagers he loves video games, girls and his cell phone.  He had no reason to run away. He has no police record. He has friends and family and football and million other reasons to be home. I find Tawana’s willingness to “co-parent” one of the most giving and loving acts a mother could do.

“There are people who know what happened to Jabez,” says Joseph Randall. “No child has ever gone missing from Sarasota… never. This won’t happen on my watch.”

Randall is a local PI on the case, and works for Derrick Jones Investigations. He works on Jabez’s case pro bono. He believes there are people that know what happened to Jabez. The streets know. The streets always know. There is a twisted sense of “right”. This street code of silence of not wanting to be a snitch is misguided.

“I believe if someone is making a living and you leave them alone, fine,” Randall said. “Sell a little weed or fence a TV. But when a 14-year-old child is harmed, all bets are off.”

The only code there should be is protect our kids at all cost. One witness was so clear about what happened to Jabez he gave details about “facial injuries” and said, “y’all ain’t gone like the way he looks or where he at.”

Everyone in this small community of New Town knows the area where Jabez’s phone last pinged– near an industrial park, according to the PI. The area Jabez was last seen is mostly heavy water or heavy woods and there is no trace of him.

“There are commercial garbage cans all in that area.”

Witness’s originally told the police and PI that they were with Jabez or know what happened to him. Now, these same witnesses don’t want to be seen as snitches.

Jabez as an infant [Photo: Family Handout]
I can guarantee the very criminals that want you to keep quiet don’t give a damn about you.  If they had information to keep themselves out of prison and could turn you in, I know they would.  There is no honor.  I have seen time and time again “gangsters” snitching to save their own a**.

Look at history. What famous criminals made deals? Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, Frank Lucas, and Leroy “Nicky” Barnes.”

Randall does not believe Jabez ran away.

“He had no money, no food, no clothes, no cell phone.”

Most importantly, I have talked with his mom, aunt and others that told me he had no reason to run away. He was happy, had a real future and he knew it. He did not skip school and the police never had any issues with him. Some experts believe he has been murdered. His neighborhood is a small section of Sarasota where everyone is either related or knows each other through association.

I find it hard to believe this community would rather have a child killer or a child kidnapper among them than a snitch. The reward money is up to $50,000.

April Glasco is a community leader that has spent 26 years in New Town trying to make a difference.  She knows the realities of living in a tough neighborhood.  She told me, “sometime not telling is surviving!” She knows Jabez did not runaway and she understands why witnesses won’t come forward.

“We have a murder victim and a missing teen – the fear is real”!

She is right. Witnesses should be fearful. There is a clear and current danger in New Town. The reward money has doubled and still no one will come forward. Crime Stoppers can be anonymous. Make the call!

I personally reached out to Gerald Griggs the Second Vice President of the NAACP in Atlanta. Mr. Griggs is an attorney, an advocate and a self-proclaimed “justice fighter”.  Mr. Griggs immediately offered to make calls to the Florida NAACP. He did not hesitate or ask for anything – he just went to work. This is what we all should do. Anytime a child is missing the world should stop turning until that child is found.

We all need to share his picture and his story. If you live in New Town encourage witnesses to come forward. If you hear something; tell someone. If you saw something; tell someone.

This case is a top priority for the Sarasota Police Department. They have executed numerous searchers and have called in the FBI.  They are offering a reward of $50,000 for information. They have two Detectives assigned to this case. Detective Laster and Detective Buck are both seasoned professionals and mothers. They will follow every lead. They are unafraid and undeterred. They both are acutely aware that “somebody knows” what happened to Jabez. You can call without giving them your name.

You can tell a preacher or an attorney and let them call the police. You can message me, and I will give them the information. I spoke at length with Geneieve Judge the departments Public Information Officer and she made it very clear that the entire department is devoted to finding Jabez. They have unitized social media, press conferences, and other agencies and they need our help. We all must share this story. We must talk about Jabez to our friends and neighbors.

I like to walk the scene to understand the area. It’s 453 steps from Jabez’s home to the alleged murder scene. The view is unobstructed and wide open. The homes are fairly close together. Everyone knows each other in the neighborhood. Somebody saw. Somebody knows. The area where is phone last pinged is sufficient and troubling.

While you were celebrating New Year’s and making resolutions, this mom was talking with police and waiting to identify remains found. Tawana Spann is many things, but mostly she is a mom. She’s a mom who’s desperate to find her child. She needs answers and Jabez deserves justice.

Sarasota Crime Stoppers (941) 366-TIPS

[Feature Photo: Jabez Spann/Family Handout]