What’s worse than the nightmare of not knowing where your child is? The reality of their death.
In the early days when Florida boy Jabez Spann was missing, his mother, Twanna Spann, always held her phone in her hand, waiting for news about her son’s whereabouts. She prayed someone would call and tell her he was found safe.
Days turned into weeks which faded into months, and in a flash, a year and five months had passed. Twanna waited 17 months without a significant lead. Then a call came in that would obliterate any mother’s heart. His remains had been found.
Jabez, 14 when he disappeared, was found dead after being discarded in a field, off the side of a road near Interstate 75. His remains were found in Manatee County on Saturday. Police said the boy’s body had deteriorated so much that a Manatee County forensic dental expert had to identify him through dental records.
“Saturday afternoon at approximately 4:30 p.m., skeletal remains were found in rural portion of Manatee County, west of I-75, by an individual working in the area on a fence line,” Deputy Chief Pat Robinson of the Sarasota Police Department said during a Tuesday press conference. “It’s unknown how long those skeletal remains were at the location where they were located, or if they were transported there from somewhere else.”
A $50,000 reward for information about Jabez is left untouched. No one ever came forward with information. A man mending a fence happened upon Jabez by accident.
Was a community more concerned with being seen as a snitch than doing the right thing? Would they rather allow a murderer to walk among them than to help a 14-year-old boy get justice for his death? Police haven’t yet called foul play, but his family thinks foul play is the only reason he was found dead.
The police worked hard on the case but got stonewalled many times. The word on the street is Jabez, a star football player, witnessed a murder. Days later he disappeared without a trace. Jabez is the only child ever vanish from Sarasota!
Jabez disappeared from his Sarasota neighborhood on September 4, 2017. His remains were found about 15 miles from where he was last seen, in a different county. This means two law enforcement departments will work on this case. Sarasota investigators will continue with a possible kidnapping case and Manatee County investigators will work what will likely become a murder case.
There are three to four potential crime scenes in this case: the kidnapping scene, the car he was transported in, the area he died in (if a different location from where he was found), and the area he was discarded in.
Twanna said “he was literally found next to the road.” How was he not seen by a passing car?
The grieving mother also said she “thanks God he has been found” but now feels lost herself.
Private investigator Joseph Randell donated his time and expertise for the past 15 months while trying to find Jabez. He searched three to four times a week and said he’s been close several times. He put around 40,000 miles on his car searching the same 20 mile radius.
“I was close, I had to be right on top of him several times. I just did not walk or drive far enough,” Randell said. “All future cases will get a PI that knows this area better than anyone else.”
We all suspected Jabez was within a 20 mile area. Someone reportedly wanted to shut him up. Therefore, there was no real need to hide his body. If in fact he witnessed a murder, not being able to talk is the only goal the suspects, who still remain unknown, would have had in mind.
Law enforcement immediately opened up a death investigation following official confirmation that Jabez’s remains had been found.
“We do not believe [Jabez] left Sarasota on his own volition and went to Manatee County, where his body was found,” Chief Deputy Robinson said. “Although this closes one chapter in the investigation, we’re opening another chapter in this investigation, which is a death investigation. We’re pivoting off of one foot and leading right into an active investigation.”
The $50,000 reward is still available. If you have information on Jabez Spann, please contact Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. For an anonymous tip, contact Crime Stoppers 941-366-TIPS or submit an online tip at www.sarasotacrimestoppers.com.
[Feature Photo: Jabez Spann/Family Handout]