Remains of Sarasota teenager Jabez Spann found almost 18 months after he went missing

The remains of Jabez Spann, the Sarasota teenager who has been missing since Labor Day weekend 2017, have been found.

Spann, 14, went missing about a week after the FBI and other officials say he witnessed a homicide in Sarasota.

At about 4:30 p.m. Saturday, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office was called out to an undisclosed rural location west of Interstate 75 after someone who was working on a fence spotted the remains, according to Sarasota Police Deputy Chief Pat Robinson.

On Tuesday, using dental records, officials determined the remains as belonging to Spann.

“Today, I am sad to report that we were not about to recover Mr. Spann living and return him to his family,” Robinson said.

Family and friends of Jabez were given the news just before a news conference Tuesday night at Sarasota Police Department headquarters.

“We are committed to bring justice to the Spann family,” Robinson said. “This is a tragedy for our community. This is a tragedy for our investigative team, and this is a tragedy for the Spann family.”

The location where the remains were found was not immediately disclosed because investigators are still working in the area, Robinson said as Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells stood by his side. He would not comment on whether any other evidence was found with the remains.

“We do not believe at this time that he left Sarasota of his own volition,” Robinson said.

The FBI and other officials said in November 2017 that Spann had witnessed the slaying of 31-year-old Travis Combs on Aug. 28, 2017, about a week before he was last seen.

Robinson said police did not have a person of interest in Spann’s disappearance and death.

A death investigation is now underway. Investigators will be going back to the beginning of the case and review all of the evidence or facts they have.

Wells did not speak at the press conference but said afterward he was there to show support for the Sarasota Police Department and the investigation, promising to offer whatever resources or assistance may be needed. The sheriff’s office alerted Sarasota police early on, as soon as they they believed the remains were those of a young male, according to Wells.

“Although this closes one chapter in this investigation, we are opening another chapter, which is the death investigation,” Robinson said.

Anyone with any information about this case can call the Sarasota Police Department at 941-316-1201 or Sarasota Crime Stoppers at 941-361-8477, or tips can be submitted at

Jessica De Leon has been covering crime, courts and law enforcement for the Bradenton Herald since 2013. She has won numerous awards for her coverage including the Florida Press Club’s Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting in 2016 for her coverage into the death of 11-year-old Janiya Thomas.