SARASOTA, Fla. — It's been one year since the remains of 14-year-old Jabez Spann were found along a fence line in Manatee County and police are still searching for answers in his death.
Spann went missing on Sept. 4, 2017, nearly a year and a half before his skeletal remains were found. Police believe the teenager may have witnessed a murder before his disappearance.
"It’s time somebody pay for what they have done," Spann's aunt, Latohya Jakes, said Thursday. "I want to see them put away for life and not with life sentence, I want the needle in their arm."
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According to the Sarasota Police Department, a witness named Reginald Parker witnessed a murder on Aug. 28, 2017 and said he saw Spann at the scene.
"We are not going to speculate, at this moment, as to the connection to any other crime. This will be handled on its merits alone," Sarasota Police Deputy Chief Patrick Robinson said at the time. "We'll be going back and basically starting from the beginning scouring our case files to ensure every lead, every tip was followed up on, everything was handled a hundred percent. We are going to run this thing to the end."
According to the department, detectives met with Lucille Tillery, Spann's grandmother, on Nov. 6, and she said that Parker came to her home to say that he witnessed the murder.
Parker reportedly said he saw Jabez Spann and two others coming out of a residence during the incident. He said he heard a gunshot and Spann yell, "Oh my God. Y'all shot him."
Spann's family remained hopeful after his disappearance that he would be found alive. His remains were found by a man working along a fence line around 4:30 p.m. on February 19, 2019. Police used dental records to confirm it was the teenager. His cause of death has not been released.
"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," said Sarasota Deputy Chief Patrick Robinson at the time.
"We thought we were prepared, but I guess that's not something you can get prepared for," Tawana Spann, Jabez's mother, said after his remains were found. "We got some closure, we are going to put him to peace and lay him to rest, but I'm not done."
The teenager was laid to rest on March 2, 2019. More than 100 people turned out to remember him.
"He had a smile that could melt butter," said Jabez's principal Dr. Harriet Moore at the time. "The lord still sits high and looks low. He will be searching to bring this to justice," she added.
Police say the investigation is still active and there's a $50,000 reward for anyone with information leading to an arrest in his death. Anyone with info is asked to call @SRQCrimeStopper at 941-366-TIPS.
PLEASE RT This week marks one year since the remains of #JabezSpann we're found in rural Manatee County. We're still asking for info in his death. Anyone with info is asked to call @SRQCrimeStopper at 941-366-TIPS. A $50,000 reward remains in place for info leading to an arrest. pic.twitter.com/vSrAnIDbtT— Sarasota Police Department (@SarasotaPD) February 20, 2020