The family of 14-year-old Jabez Spann is asking the public for help after he went missing on September 4.
His mom, Tawana Spann, told NBC’s “Dateline” that they have reason to believe her son may have witnessed a murder before his disappearance. As NBC News reported, his mom explained that Jabez had his entire life ahead of him:
“He was a teaching assistant and a star football player. His career and football were what he really thrived off, so when he didn’t go to school, that’s when she [his grandmother] got worried.”
The last time anyone saw Jabez was the night before he was reported missing. His family didn’t begin to worry until the following day when his maternal grandmother — whom he lived with — learned he hadn’t shown up for school.
Tawana reached out to all of Jabez’s friends, but nobody knew where he was. A missing person’s alert was released after his mother notified the police.
The search for the teen was only made harder when Hurricane Irma hit six days after Jabez was last seen. Tawana told “Dateline”:
“When Irma hit, that was the last time his cellphone pinged. After the hurricane, they realized this young man is missing for real.”
Following a slew of searches for the teen, authorities were unable to find anything significant enough to aid in their search. Toward the end of October, over a month after Jabez disappeared, his family began to lose hope.
That’s when Tawana was approached by a man, known as Reginald Parker, who claimed to know why Jabez was missing. As “Dateline” reported:
Parker said that, on August 28, he had witnessed the fatal shooting of Travis Combs in Sarasota. He said he wasn’t the only witness, though — he said Jabez was there, too.
Joseph Randall, a private investigator working Jabez’s case, told “Dateline”:
“He told us that Jabez was coming out of a friend’s house when [Travis] was shot. Jabez yelled something along the lines of, ‘Y’all shot him!'”
Parker, a registered sex offender, repeated his story a few days later to Sarasota police.
But when he was arrested on November 7 for failing to notify the police that he moved homes, Parker denied that he witnessed Combs’s murder. He also claimed that he never told the private investigator that he saw Jabez at the scene of the crime.
The authorities have since charged Parker with accessory after the fact in Combs’s murder. They are still investigating whether Jabez’s disappearance and Combs’s death are in fact connected.
Genevieve Judge, the Public Information Officer for the Sarasota Police Department, told “Dateline”:
“Both of those cases are still open and active. There are different detectives working each case, but they’re working hand in hand with each other as the investigations continue.”
According to NBC News, Tawana believes it’s because her son witnessed the murder that he went missing.
Randall told “Dateline” that they “have people who they suspect [are responsible for Jabez’s disappearance], but they are still gathering evidence to put the nail in the coffin.”
Tawana admitted that it was heartbreaking to learn that her son may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time because it was his life goal never to be involved in any type of crime. She explained:
“He has an older brother serving 15 years and another who just got out of a program. One of the main things he didn’t want to do was follow in those footsteps.”
Jabez Spann is described as being 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighs about 120 pounds and was last seen wearing a turquoise T-shirt.
Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to call Sarasota Crime Stoppers at 941-366-TIPS or private investigator Joseph Randall at 941-780-2175. There is currently a $25,000 reward being offered for information leading to the teen’s whereabouts.