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'Skeletal Remains' Of Florida Teen Found Years After He Disappeared After Witnessing A Killing

Jabez Spann vanished in 2017, one week after seeing three men chase down and kill Travis Combs.

By Ethan Harfenist

Florida authorities have found the skeletal remains of a 14-year-old boy who disappeared in 2017, days after he witnessed a man's slaying.

Sarasota Deputy Police Chief Pat Robinson told reporters on Tuesday that the body of Jabez Spann had been found over the weekend in a rural area of neighboring Manatee County. The body was identified by dental records. No cause of death was released — “It’s unknown if Jabez passed away from natural causes or if foul play is involved,” police said in a statement — but the case is being investigated as a homicide

“Saturday afternoon at approximately 4:30 p.m., skeletal remains were found in a rural portion of Manatee County … [by] an individual working in the area on a fence line,” Robinson said, apologizing for “sounding choked up” about the case. “It’s unknown how long those skeletal remains were at the location where they were located, or if they were transported there from somewhere else.”

Tawana Spann, Jabez’s mother, took to Facebook the same day to confirm the news.

“Yes my baby has been found,” she wrote.

Jabez Spann disappeared on Sept. 4, 2017, about a week after police say he witnessed the slaying of 31-year-old Travis Combs.

Jabez Spann

Police reports say three men chased Combs into a field next to his home just as Spann was leaving a friend's house next door. Spann saw the men shoot Combs and flee.

“We do not believe [Jabez Spann] left Sarasota on his own volition and went to Manatee County, where his body was found,” Sarasota Police Public Information Officer Genevieve Judge said, according to NBC News. “Although this closes one chapter in the investigation, we’re opening another chapter in this investigation — which is a death investigation. We’re pivoting off of one foot and leading right into an active investigation.”

Tawana Spann said she spoke to her son the night he disappeared, according to a December 2017 report from Dateline NBC. She said his maternal grandmother, with whom he lived at the time, was worried when she learned Jabez did not attend school the following day.

“He was a teaching assistant and a star football player,” Tawana told Dateline. “His career and football was what he really thrived off, so when he didn’t go to school, that’s when she got worried.”

Robinson said “hundreds upon hundreds” of hours have gone into the investigation, and added that Jabez’s family has been instrumental in helping the department.

“Many of our detectives … have children of their own. I’m a father, as is the sheriff. I can’t imagine having that information broken to me about my son. … [Jabez’s family] has been incredibly supportive,” Robinson told reporters at the press conference. “There’s been highs and lows in this investigation where there’ve have been sightings and tips and things we’ve followed up on. And every time it’s a peak and a valley, they’ve stood with us, and our investigation team, every step of the way.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.