For almost 18 months police, family, friends and members of the community searched for missing Sarasota teenager Jabez Spann. As they searched, his remains laid alongside a heavily traveled rural road near Palmetto.
Jabez’s skeletal remains were found on Saturday afternoon in the 4100 block of Canal Road. Police don’t yet know if the teen was killed there or if he was killed elsewhere before his body was dumped.
His mother, Tawana Spann, and other family were feeling overwhelmed Wednesday with the news of where Jabez’s remains were found as they prepared to plan a funeral. But they were glad to have some closure and be able to lay him to rest.
“It just wasn’t what we hoped for,” Spann told media gathered outside her home on Wednesday afternoon. “We thought we were prepared, but I guess that’s not something you can get prepared for. We are going to move forward with the hopes they can find whoever did this.”
Spann did have one message for anyone responsible for Jabez’s death.
“Those last moments that you caused him, that you did to him, when he was helpless and couldn’t call on anybody, that’s what I want to see justice for,” Spann said.
Where Jabez, who was 14 when he went missing, was found is extremely dark at night and the nearest homes to the south are abandoned. Yet his remains were just a few feet from the pavement of Canal Road, where a countless amount of vehicles travel daily.
Jabez, who would have turned 16 in December, had last been seen by his family on Sept. 4, 2017, leaving a Labor Day barbeque in the area of 22nd Street in Sarasota. According to law enforcement officials, including the FBI, Spann witnessed the murder of 31-year-old Travis Combs just before his disappearance.
Late Tuesday night, the Sarasota Police Department confirmed that the remains of Jabez had been found by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office over the weekend. Someone working on a fence alongside Canal Road spotted the remains and called 911. As soon as sheriff’s detectives determined the remains could be those of a young male, possibly Jabez, they contacted Sarasota police.
On Tuesday, using Jabez’s dental records, a forensic odontologist confirmed that the remains belonged to Jabez. A medical examiner confirmed the identification.
The Sarasota Police Department, which is the lead agency investigating the case, would not release the location of where his remains were found. On Tuesday night, Deputy Chief Pat Robinson explained that it was because investigators were still working at the location.
About 10 a.m. Wednesday, detectives and members of Peace River K9 Search and Rescue finished their work along Canal Road near Palmetto and cleared the scene. However, Sarasota police declined to confirm the location where the remains were found nor explain why it had not been officially released.
Surveyors contracted by Manatee County have been working along Canal Road on a preliminary survey for a plan to widen the street. One surveyor said it would have been a matter of days before they made their way to where Jabez was found.
On Wednesday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement officially canceled its missing child alert for Jabez.
Anyone with any information about this case can call Sarasota Police Department Detective Megan Buck at 941-954-7067 or Sarasota Crime Stoppers at 941-361-8477, or tips can be submitted at sarasotacrimestoppers.com.
Spectrum Bay News 9 contributed to this report.