Sarasota Police ask public's help in finding missing teen

By Saundra Weathers, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, September 18, 2017, 10:20 PM EDT

The Sarasota Police Department asked for the public's help on Sept. 18 in connection with a teen missing since Sept. 4.

  • Jabez Spann, 14, last seen on 9/4 at 6 p.m.
  • Grandmother last person to see him
  • Have information? Call 941-366-8000 or 911

Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino discussed the case during a media briefing at Police Headquarters, wanting to get correct information about the search for Jabez Spann, 14, out there and dispel rumors.

DiPino confirmed that Spann was last seen at 6 p.m. on Sept. 4 by his grandmother. When she didn't hear from him the next day, she reported Spann missing.

Police said the case initially looked like a runaway, but as time progressed, detectives came to regard it as a missing persons case.

DiPino also confirmed that although detectives still have the case open and they are in contact with Spann's mother and grandmother on a daily basis, there is no active search for Spann being conducted at the moment.

"The police department is not gonna stop searching for Jabez until we find him," DiPino said. "That is going to be our goal, is to continue. But in order to search a specific location, to do a grid search, we need to have some legitimate information, and something that’s going to be reliable, because we can’t do a grid search of the entire county of Sarasota without not knowing if he’s in a specific location."

DiPino described Spann as an athlete who talked routinely to his coaches, a "bright student" and a "bright personality."

"This is a kid that was positive," said Joe Butler, Spann's stepfather. "This is a kid that was about positive things. He was into football. Captain of his football team, Quarterback, played in Dallas stadium. This was a positive kid doing positive things."

Spann was reportedly active on social media, and the absence of any activity on his social media accounts has heightened his family's concerns.

"We haven’t had any communication with him or he hasn’t had any communication at all either," said Tawana Spann, Jabez's mother. "No social media, no just friends. No nothing. No one has seen him, heard from him, anything for 14 days. And I feel like that’s very unusual for a 14-year-old."

At one point in the search, DiPino said, detectives "pinged" Spann's phone and searched the area where the response came from. The location was a wooded area, and detectives found no sign of Spann.

The chief emphatically asked that residents stop spreading rumors about Spann's fate, calling the rumors "troublesome." She said the department's detectives were investigating some of the rumors they'd heard in order to fully discredit them.

DiPino also reported that around 109,000 have viewed, reposted, or retweeted information about the search for Spann on the department's social media accounts.

DiPino believes people in the community have information about Spann's whereabouts. She asked that anyone report anything, no matter how seemingly insignificant, to Sarasota Police detectives at 941-366-8000, or simply call 911.