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Police, family plead for information on missing teen

Family of missing Sarasota teen speaks out

The family of missing Sarasota teen, Jabez Spann makes an emotional plea for help to the community.
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The family of missing Sarasota teen, Jabez Spann makes an emotional plea for help to the community.

Jabez Spann, 14, has been missing since Sept. 4, and on Tuesday his family gave a tearful plea to the public to provide information that will lead to his whereabouts.

“I just want to say I know somebody out there knows what happened to Jabez,” said Lucia Tillery, Jabez’s grandmother who couldn’t hold back the tears. “We love Jabez. All we want is for anyone who knows anything, just give him back to us. We just want him back. This could be anybody’s child. I’m begging, pleading just bring him back home.”

Jabez lived with his grandmother, who said, “The house is so empty without him in it. That’s my baby. Somebody please, please help us.”

Jabez was last seen at a Labor Day barbecue with his family and was reported missing by his grandmother the following day. A Facebook post from Our Missing Hearts said, “He seemed like he wasn’t enjoying himself or something was bothering him when he left for home ... around 5:30 that evening. He hasn’t been seen or heard from since.”

Jabez is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen in the 1500 block of 23rd Street in Sarasota during the evening hours of Sept. 4.

Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino said the case has left her department frustrated. DiPino said there are areas her officers want to search, but they are private property and without probable cause, officers cannot conduct those searches without consent.

“We are doing everything we can, but it’s been very frustrating that we are not getting information from our community,” she said. “So we are asking again and reaching out to the citizens in our community to please consider coming forward.”

DiPino is convinced someone in the community knows what happened to Jabez, and so is his mother, Tawana Spann.

“There’s actually a child in this community that is gone without a trace right now,” Spann said. “I don’t really know if pleading will do it. I think we kind of have to look at the community itself. If a crime is being covered over a life, there’s something hugely wrong here. This is a human being that we’re talking about. Being afraid has to go out the window at this point. We might be the only people that can actually help him wherever he is.”

Spann called into question the moral character of her community if someone knows what happened to Jabez and isn’t coming forward.

“If the community can’t help us, then we are in a bad place in life,” she said.

DiPino said foul play isn’t being ruled out at this point, but that there is simply no evidence either way. Jabez was initially listed as a runaway because he was known to stay with friends for multiple days, but an official missing child alert was issued Sept. 18.

After pinging his cellphone, police searched a nearby wooded area where the last known location of his phone is said to have been, but despite using K-9’s and a helicopter, came up empty.

The case is “emotional and personal for me, my officers, my detectives and this community,” DiPino said. “We are treating this as if Jabez was our child because it is our responsibility to keep every child in this community safe.”

No Amber Alert has been issued because there is no evidence that Jabez was abducted, which is the criteria to issue the alert. Anyone with any information about this case can call 911 or Detective Megan Buck at 941-954-7067.

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