New Castle County Police: "Janteyl Johnson case remains an active missing person investigation, and we need the public's help to find her."
Det. Roberto Herrera heads the missing persons division for New Castle County Police in Delaware. I sat down with him for an exclusive interview about Janteyl Johnson's case.
We know Janteyl, then 15 and five months pregnant, was communicating with several older men, including the father of her unborn child, the day she vanished. Investigators believe she may have left with one of those men.
I asked Det. Herrera about those individuals and if any of them are considered suspects in her disappearance.
Janteyl's family doesn't believe she left on her own. They feel she was lured from their apartment and are holding out hope that she and her child will be found alive.
If you have information about this case, please call the New Castle County Police at 302-395-2784.
EXCLUSIVE: Surveillance video shows Delaware teen Janteyl Johnson buying candy an hour before she disappeared in 2010
The security footage from what used to be a PathMark grocery store in Newark, Delaware, shows Janteyl Johnson, 15, walking in to buy candy. It's the middle of winter, Feb. 3, 2010. 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. When 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 home. The two-and-a-half-minute clip 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.
The never before seen video of Janteyl buying a bag of candy is a reminder that she was 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. Janteyl was barely mentioned in the news. A few online outlets have recently written about Janteyl, and a few podcasts have featured her story.
But what if from the start, when it mattered most, Janteyl's disappearance had generated the type of media coverage that Gabby Petito or Lacy Peterson received? Perhaps Janteyl would've been found, and whoever's responsible for her disappearance would've been brought to justice by now.
I first covered Janteyl's disappearance in 2010 for the outlet 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 local papers in Delaware did mention Janteyl, but as far as extensive media coverage goes, her case got lost over the years.
We know 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. Instead, he focused on the department's efforts to generate leads 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 and prisons in Delaware," 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 turning to the public for help.
"Like any other missing person, it's going to take somebody coming forward to 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.”
IF YOU KNOW WHERE JANTEYL IS, PLEASE CALL 911 OR THE NEW CASTLE COUNTY POLICE AT: 302-395-2784
"We know Janteyl is still out there," says sister of missing Delaware teen on 12 year anniversary of her disappearance
Funny, feisty, and full of love for her family is how Janel Kirby-Brinson describes her little sister, Janteyl Johnson.
"Janteyl is a beautiful soul. She's the type of person that if you meet her, you will remember her," Janel told me during a recent interview at her North Philadelphia home.
Janteyl, affectionally known as Puff because of her puffy cheeks when she was a baby, was a typical teenager who enjoyed singing, dancing, and playing pranks on her siblings. She also ran track, loved to do hair, and was a big fan of Betty Boop.
“If you know Janteyl, you know she doesn’t go anywhere without her Betty Boop pocketbook."
Soft-spoken and shy, Janel, a mother of four, hasn't seen Janteyl in 12 years. She says talking about her disappearance is like pouring salt on an open wound.
“It hurts. I know for me, personally, it plays a lot with my anxiety. It can really put me in a bad state of mind.”
Janel was 23 and had two kids when Janteyl, then 15 and five months pregnant, vanished on Feb. 3, 2010. Janteyl's sudden disappearance also took its toll on her niece and nephew.
"Puff and my son were very close. He adored her! When she went missing they would sleep with her picture on their pillow"
Both, now teenagers, still ask about their aunt Puff.
“My son asked me one time, 'Is she dead? Where is she?' I told him, 'Don’t ever say that because she’s not. We don’t know yet. We’re still looking,'" Janel said, fighting back tears.
The sisters shared a close bond. It was Janel who Janteyl first confided in about her pregnancy and asked if she would take her to the doctor for a test. When they got the results, they broke the news, first to their mom, before telling the rest of the family.
"Of course, there was some disappointment because she got pregnant young. That would be disappointing for any family if their child got pregnant young," Janel continued, "but when she went missing there was no argument in the family. Everyone came to accept it. What can you do at this point? There was no getting rid of it; therefore, it was, okay, let's move forward.”
The family turned their attention to the alleged father of Janteyl's unborn child and were stunned to learn that he was a 27-year-old man who reportedly lied to Janteyl about his age.
“She told me that he said he was much younger, closer to her age, and I asked her, 'Does he know about the baby?' She said, 'Yes.' " Janel said.
Janteyl reportedly met the alleged father of her child in Wilmington, Delaware, where she and her family lived before moving 15 miles south to Newark in 2010. According to Janel, when Janteyl told him about the pregnancy, he panicked.
"She said he wanted her to get an abortion. He wanted her to get rid of the baby because if it came out [about his age], it's automatic lockup for him," said Janel.
In Delaware, it is illegal for an adult (someone 18 or older) to have sex with a minor (a person 15 or younger), even if the sex is consensual.