Jabez Spann’s family and friends found strength in fellow community members at a candlelight vigil held just a few blocks from where the 14-year-old Sarasota teen went missing 18 months ago.
Nearly 200 grieving community members gathered at Fredd Glossie Atkins Park on Saturday evening for a ceremony honoring the life of a boy who authorities believe was murdered and left along the side of a busy road in Palmetto. Guests held candles and wore white and gold to lend support to Jabez’s family.
One by one, guests stepped from the crowd to share their favorite memories with Jabez.
His uncle said he never gave up.
His bus driver said he stood up to bullies.
Wayne Washington, who led the vigil, said his death was a loss for the entire community.
Washington also called on visitors to end any stigma associated with providing law enforcement officers with information regarding crimes.
“If you see something, say something. I’m tired of this ‘I’m not snitching,’ nonsense. Tonight is the night to end all that,” Washington said.
Jabez’s mother, Tawana Spann, said loved ones asked her to reconsider the date of the vigil, which conflicted with Rubonia’s Mardi Gras. Spann said remembering her son was more important.
“I thought about it,” she admitted. “But the fact that there’s more people there than out here should tell us something about where we are as a people. People would rather ride on rides than honor a 14-year-old boy who was tossed on the side of the road.”
The Sarasota Police Department issued a stunning update in the 18-month investigation of the missing 14-year-old Tuesday night. Jabez’s remains were discovered by a fence worker just a few feet away from a heavily traveled road in Palmetto.
Ruby Robinson, a local pastor, believes that the family’s constant prayers led to the discovery of Jabez’s remains. If they keep praying, she said, they’ll find justice soon.
“Our God is a God of justice and our God is God of vengeance,” she said. “The truth will be told and justice will be done.”
Friends described Jabez as a fun kid who loved smiling, laughing and sports.
“He was such a good kid with such a good heart,” said 15-year-old Chezare Mann, who had been Jabez’s friend since they met in first grade. “He always had a big smile on his face. And he loved football. All he talked about was football.”
Robinson said he loved God, too.
“I was his pastor for six years. I know he loved God. He loved singing and dancing, too,” Robinson said. “He was like my own grandson. He would come in my house, sleep in my bed and eat up my food.”
Robinson said Spann’s family was grateful for the closure that Tuesday’s news brought, though they had held out hope that Jabez would be found alive. They aren’t giving up hope on the investigation, though.
“By coming together with unity and trust in God, we know He will do the right thing and get us justice,” Robinson said.
The family announced that Jabez’s funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 2, at the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex.