By: Claudia Rivero
Galveston, Texas, is a popular destination known for its beaches, its famous Seawall Boulevard, and the amusement park at Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.
But, just over a mile away, on a quiet side of the island, is a growing memorial full of stuffed animals, toys, and a wooden cross with the words "You mattered, little guy," dedicated to a young boy whose death remains a mystery.
The toddler, whom investigators call "Little Jacob," was found dead on Oct. 20, 2017, by a woman walking along the surf just east of Stewart Beach. Months later, they still don't know the boy's name, who he belongs to, or how he died.
Galveston resident Wanda Grunwell has been following the case from day one.
"That little boy needs to be identified," she said. "He deserves a proper burial because he had value."
Grunwell watched from her balcony as first responders pulled the toddler's body from the water.
"I felt bad for the officers and for the woman who found him, it just broke my heart," she said.
Investigators believe "Little Jacob" was in the water 12-48 hours. Autopsy results released in January show he was underweight and had injuries consistent with long-term abuse and neglect.
According to the autopsy, "Little Jacob" did not have water in his lungs; therefore, he was likely dead when someone put him in the water. But the cause of death has not been determined.
Galveston Police Detective Jeff Banks is the lead investigator on the case.
"It’s taken a toll. It’s pretty much the only thing I've worked since Oct. 20. All day. Overtime. It’s a big case,” Banks said. "I can't imagine I'm ever gonna put it down until it's solved."
His hard work seems to be paying off. Detective Banks tells me they're following up on several promising leads and are still processing evidence, including DNA. It's a lengthy, complicated process but he remains optimistic about solving the case.
“Somebody knows him and we're gonna do right by him and find out who put him in the water,” he said.
It's taken investigators months to get to this point. They started with a sketch of the toddler done by renowned forensic artist Lois Gibson, the FBI offered assistance including a $10,000 reward, and Clear Channel Outdoor featured the case on electronic billboards from Texas to Kentucky.
Galveston Police received hundreds of tips at the time, but none of them panned out.
"We got 500 names," Banks said.
As the tips started slowing down, Galveston Police and the FBI looked for ways to keep the case in the public eye. In January they took the rare and gut-wrenching step of releasing an actual photo of the dead toddler as a last-ditch effort to identify him.
"I didn't want to put that out there but there was no better way to show what he actually looks like," Detective Banks told me. "I assumed we’d have a little more push back but people were supportive of it.”
Tough as it was to release the photo, Detective Banks feels it was the right thing to do.
"The tips that are coming in are promising, and I'm optimistic that we're gonna be able to identify him," he said.
Some of those promising leads have come from the West Coast and Northeastern U.S., and from as far away as Europe as well as Central and South America, according to Banks.
"We're gonna solve it, I'm confident, we're gonna solve it," he said.
To the person or people that know what happened to "Little Jacob," Detective Banks says this:
"Come forward, talk to me, let's get it figured out."
Little Jacob was found unclothed. He's Hispanic, about 3 to 5 years old, and still has all of his baby teeth.
If you know who "Little Jacob" is and how to contact his family, please call 1-800-CALL-FBI or 1-800-225-5324.
The FBI is offering up to a $10,000 reward in this case.
May 25 is National Missing Children's Day. Please a take a moment to share the poster of a missing child from your area. It takes a few seconds to post to your social media and it can really make a difference. You never know, you might help bring a missing child home.
By Claudia Rivero
Family and friends of Akia Eggleston gathered, on a rainy Saturday afternoon, outside the South Baltimore townhouse where the young mom used to live.
Volunteers handed out yellow ribbons and pins with Akia's picture before lighting candles and saying a prayer for the 22-year-old who was eight months pregnant when she vanished on May 3, 2017.
Ann Wilson, Akia's maternal grandmother, was among those who attended the vigil. It's been a difficult time for her family given that a year has passed with no answers as to what happened to her granddaughter. Even worse, her family has not been allowed to see Akia's three-year-old daughter since last July. Wilson says the little girl's father has not responded to the family's multiple attempts to reach him.
It's a lot for one family to endure. Wilson and her husband lost their daughter, Akia's mother, to cancer. Now, their granddaughter and great-grandson are missing and are believed to be the victims of foul play. Add to that the heartache of not being able to see Akia's daughter, Emery.
"The family is keeping her away from us," Wilson said. "I wish I had the answer, I don't know why."
As for the father of Akia's unborn son, the family says he has never reached out to them, has not attended any vigils or made an effort to help search for Akia.
"I've contacted him directly, and I've asked him to call me," Akia's stepfather Shawn Wilkinson said. "I've talked to his brother, and they just say they don't know where he's at. It just makes him look suspicious."
As mentioned in our original story about Akia's disappearance, investigators questioned the father of her unborn baby, but he's not named a suspect in the case.
"They have their suspicions of people they are watching, you know? Ain't none of them ruled out. Nobody," said Wilson.
Frustrated at the lack of answers, the family is relying on friends, the community, and organization's such as the Black and Missing Foundation — a Washington D.C. based nonprofit that helps raise awareness for missing people of color — to keep Akia's story in the public eye.
"We have an anonymous tip line, so if you go to www.bamfi.org, please tell us what happened, and we will not compromise your identity," co-founder Natalie Wilson said.
Wilson and her sister-in-law, Derrica Wilson, have been assisting the family since day one.
"We're utilizing all of our platforms, social media, partnerships with law enforcement and the media to get this story out there," co-founder Derrica Wilson said. "This family is hurting and we want to bring that closure."
For Akia's grandmother the not knowing is unbearable. She hopes the person or people responsible for Akia's disappearance find it in their heart to do the right thing.
"Whoever have her or have done something to her, we need you to come forward because we need some answers and we need closure. Please let her go so she can come home no matter which way it is and no matter what happened. We need closure."
If you have information concerning this case, please contact the FBI's Baltimore Field Office at 410 - 265-8080 or the Baltimore City Police at 410- 396- 2499. There's a $25,000 reward.
By Claudia Rivero
Antonio Vela Jr. vanished June 15, 2017, after leaving a bar near his home in Victoria, Texas. Rumors surrounding the now 37-year-old music producer's disappearance have spread like wildfire.
Investigators remain tight-lipped about the case.
I traveled to Victoria to meet Antonio's mother, Ninfa Vela, and her daughters Michelle and Natalie. Antonio — who also goes by the nicknames TJ and Speshul Ed — is the youngest of Ninfa's children and her only son.
Friends who saw Antonio the night he vanished are sharing their story for the first time. We've also obtained exclusive photos of the scene where Antonio's vehicle was found abandoned on June 16, 2017.
Desperate for answers, the Velas are asking anyone with information about Antonio's disappearance to contact the Victoria Police Department or Victoria Crime Stoppers at: 361-572-4200
June 16, 2017
Antonio's 1999 Pontiac Firebird was found abandoned 20 miles away in the town of Inez in Victoria County on June 16, 2017. These are exclusive photos of the scene.
Anyone with information should call Victoria Crime Stoppers at 361-572-4200
By Claudia Rivero
I've been writing about Janteyl Johnson on whereisjanteyl.com since 2013. Today, the New Castle County Police finally added Janteyl to their list of cold cases. Although it's a good step, you may be wondering what exactly does it mean?
It means that more resources and a fresh pair of eyes will be focused on this case. In fact, many eyes—outside of NCCPD—have been focused on Janteyl since last year.
The information below is from the NCCPD website. It explains, in general terms, what criteria must be met before the Cold Case Homicide Squad re-examines a case.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also revealed a new age-progession image of what Janteyl might look like today at age 23.
Meanwhile, I'm following some interesting information and hope to have an update soon.
If you have any information about Janteyl Johnson, please do the right thing and contact the NCCPD Cold-Case Homicide Squad. You can remain anonymous. 302-395-2781 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333. What if this was your daughter? Wouldn't you want someone to come forward?
As millions of people enjoyed the Super Bowl, for the Clark family of Baltimore, Maryland, Feb. 4 marked the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of their loved ones, Joanna and Shariece Clark.
A small group of family and friends held a candlelight vigil at the apartment complex on Round Road in South Baltimore where the young mom lived with her seven children. Joanna, 33, and Shariece, 15, vanished on the same day but at different times. Baltimore Police suspect foul play.
It's been a heartbreaking journey for the Clark family. The not knowing what happened to Joanna and Shariece. The many unanswered questions. The lack of tips to police. The family has their suspicions as to what occurred, but no arrests have been made.
I've covered this case extensively on this website. And although it was also recently featured on the CBS News website, Joanna and Shariece's case has not received any other national media attention. The Clarks believe more media coverage and a reward would help generate leads.
Someone knows what happened to Joanna and Shariece Clark, and they need to speak up. Do it for her six younger children who are now in foster care and face an uncertain future.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the Baltimore City Police via text at: 4439024824
Janteyl Johnson, who was 15 and pregnant when she vanished on Feb. 3, 2010, would be 23 by now; her baby would be almost 8. What happened to them remains a mystery. There are still no named suspects and no arrests in connection with Janteyl's disappearance. It's as if this young girl fell off the face of the earth never to be seen or heard from again.
Although Janteyl did have a history of running away, it's clear, based on all the information we've gathered over the years, that if Janteyl left on her own, it wasn't with the intention of never coming back to her family. It makes no sense. It's absurd to think that a 15-year-old pregnant teen could pull that off on her own for this long. It's safe to say that something else happened, and the older man investigators believe she may have left with is out there somewhere. That person has never been inconvenienced. That person has never had to do much except decline to cooperate with investigators and refuse to take lie detector tests. Other than that, his life goes on.
This raises several questions. What else has the person responsible for Janteyl's disappearance done? What else has that person been able to get away with? Are there other victims? And if detectives believe that Janteyl and the older man traveled to Delaware or Pennsylvania, would the FBI be involved in the investigation since this crosses state lines?
What we do know for sure is that initially, the police focused on two investigative leads. One—a 27-year-old believed to be the baby's father—refused to cooperate with investigators. The other is an even older man who was also in contact with Janteyl the day she disappeared. This information is solid as a rock and confirmed with multiple sources.
Both of these older men had connections to a 15-year-old pregnant girl who disappeared and has yet to be found. Although there have been many twists and turns in the last eight years — especially over the last nine months — the case remains unsolved.
Anyone with information on the disappearance of Janteyl Johnson is urged to contact
1-800-THE-LOST or NCCPD at 302-395-8171.
EXCLUSIVE: Dennis "Demo" Queen is believed to be the last person who saw Joanna and Shariece Clark of Baltimore, Maryland, the day they disappeared. He's Joanna's ex-boyfriend and the father of her six younger children. He's known Joanna since Shariece was two.
Family and friends believe that Dennis Queen knows what happened to Joanna and Shariece. They point to the couple's turbulent past that includes a protective order Joanna obtained against Dennis Queen in September 2016. Dennis Queen vehemently denies the accusations. He feels that investigators are not doing enough to solve this case and is asking anyone with information to please come forward.
Claudia Rivero Reporter and Producer