EXCLUSIVE: Surveillance video shows missing Delaware teen Janteyl Johnson buying candy an hour before she vanished
On the afternoon of Feb. 3, 2010, security camera footage from what used to be a PathMark grocery store in Newark, Delaware, shows Janteyl Johnson, 15, walking in to buy candy. She's wearing a puffer jacket, blue jeans, and sneakers. Her braids are tied back in a ponytail.
Janteyl, five months pregnant at the time, pays at a self-checkout register. As she exits the store at 12:31 p.m., she's talking on her cell phone and stops to scratch her leg, then continues walking. The two-and-a-half-minute footage is the last confirmed sighting of the teen. An hour later, Janteyl vanished from her family's apartment and has not been seen or heard from ever since.
Watching Janteyl buying a bag of candy is a reminder that she was just a child, and no one has been held accountable for her disappearance.
"I can tell you that it's not normal what happened to her," said Detective Roberto Herrera, in an exclusive interview.
Herrera, a 19-year-veteran of the New Castle County Police Department, made Janteyl's case a priority when he took over the missing persons division in 2018.
"She was 15. She was pregnant, five months pregnant, so it’s a case that catches anyone’s attention right away.”
A missing pregnant child should've made headlines, but Janteyl didn't get wall-to-wall media coverage. She didn't become a household name. There was no social media frenzy over her disappearance. She was barely mentioned in the news.
I first reported on Janteyl's disappearance in 2010 for a news station I worked for at the time. I interviewed her mother, twice, but because Janteyl was classified as a runaway, there was no further interest in covering her case. Some Delaware newspapers mentioned Janteyl at the time, but as far as extensive media coverage goes, there was none. A few online outlets have recently written about Janteyl, and some podcasts have featured her story.
But what if from the start, Janteyl's disappearance had generated the type of media coverage that Gabby Petito or Lacy Peterson received? Perhaps she would've been found, and whoever's responsible for her disappearance would've been held accountable by now.
Janteyl's case serves as an example of how when a black or brown person is missing there isn't always an urgency to cover their case. There are plenty of examples to prove that point.
What we know is that Janteyl was talking to several older men the day she vanished, including the alleged father of her unborn child. Her family says he was the last person who called Janteyl and that her cell phone later pinged near his relative's home. Det. Herrera didn't confirm that information and has not named any suspects in the case.
“At the end of 2019 we put up a billboard in Delaware with her picture, and we also put her picture and information on a deck of playing cards and distributed them in jails in Delaware prisons," said Herrera, "and we actually got a good lead that I cannot go into detail at this point.”
Herrera wants Janteyl's family to know that she hasn't been forgotten. He feels this case can be solved, and is asking for the public's help.
"Like any other missing person, it's going to take somebody coming forward and provide us with more information. I’m hoping that we can get more with time and we can solve this to give some peace of mind to the family.”
NOW MORE THAN EVER, IF YOU HAVE INFORMATION ABOUT JANTEYL'S DISAPPEARANCE, PLEASE CALL NEW CASTLE COUNTY POLICE AT 302-395-2784.
Claudia Rivero Investigative Reporter/Producer