When 13-year-old Janessa Shannon went missing, her family felt like they were the only ones who cared.
As Fox 13 News reports, Janessa was last seen on July 1. Her father, Nahshon Shannon, reported her missing from his home in Riverview, Florida, on July 3.Screenshot/Fox 13 News
Janessa reportedly had a history of running away from home, and authorities decided not to issue an AMBER Alert regarding her disappearance. Col. Donna Lusczynski of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office told the Bradenton Herald that Janessa didn’t meet their criteria for an AMBER Alert:
“Year to date, we have over 500 runaway juveniles. If we gave you five alerts a day, I just wonder, would they really get publicized? Our fear is if we send the media five alerts a day, it will overwhelm and it will lose its value to you.”
Nine days after Janessa was reported missing, her body was found at a nearby nature preserve.
In the time between her disappearance and when she was found, family and friends passed out fliers and tried to locate the missing teen. Katrina Doichinov, a family friend, told the Herald that the family had been frustrated by what they saw as a lack of official interest in finding Jenessa:
“I think both sides of the family are just angry that there was very little urgency from the police until it was too late. The media didn’t help us too much, either. We are all very angry.”
Sabrina Remillard, Nahshon’s neighbor, was upset to learn that authorities were investigating Nahshon for his daughter’s murder. She told Fox 13:
“You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m like, ‘Now they’re going to start doing something?’ And the fact that they automatically jump to the parent who has been looking for his daughter?”
“It wasn’t until they found her body that people, cops started knocking on the doors and asking questions.”
Local investigators, however, say that they have been working on Janessa’s case since the day she was reported missing. Lusczynski told the Herald:
“We never stopped looking for Janessa. We continued to work the case.”
While many have focused on the lack of an AMBER Alert in Janessa’s disappearance, Rebecca Kovar of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) stressed in a phone interview with Dearly that the AMBER Alert is an investigative tool for law enforcement, not a public service announcement for the public about a missing child.
Every state sets its own criteria for an AMBER Alert, but generally, a vehicle needs to be involved and authorities must believe the child was abducted.
Kovar added that the NCMEC considers all missing children to be endangered. While not every missing child will be the subject of an AMBER Alert, NCMEC is always ready to assist in finding them.
For NCMEC to help family and law enforcement, the child must have already been reported missing to local authorities. Then, anyone with custody or legal guardianship can call the NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) and make a report.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate Janessa’s death and has asked the public for help in finding her killer. Lusczynski told Fox 13:
“We need to be deliberate and methodical in our investigation. What’s important to us is identifying this killer and putting him behind bars.”