Imagine the pain the families of four young men shot dead, burned, and buried on a property in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, are going through right now.
Nothing can prepare a family for the moment when police officers knock on the door to confirm a loved one's death. If you've never had to experience that door knock, consider yourself blessed. I can tell you from personal experience, it haunts you for life.
The victims are identified as: Dean Finocchario, 19; Thomas Meo, 21; Mark Sturgis, 22; and Jimi Patrick, 19. Their families had reported them missing on separate days the week before, and from there the investigation took off. This case is a perfect example of how crucial it is for investigators to reach out to the media when dealing with a missing person case, and for the media to respond, especially in those first few hours. Otherwise, how can the public be expected to come forward with information if they don't even know someone's disappeared?
Bucks County District Attorney, Matthew Weintraub, was front and center from the start of this investigation, holding multiple news conferences and encouraging the public to come forward with tips. Pictures of the victims appeared on every news channel--local and national--as well as online.
The public responded by providing crucial information to investigators. As a result of those efforts from the public, the media, and most of all due to outstanding police work, this case resulted in the arrest of cousins, Cosmo DiNardo, 20, and Sean Kratz, 20.
According to the probable cause affidavit, all four bodies were found on a property belonging to DiNardo's parents. Three of the bodies were buried in a 12-foot-deep common grave, the fourth was buried in a shallow grave not far from the others. In exchange for his confession to the killings, DiNardo won't face the death penalty. Both men are being held without bond.
As I watched this case unfold, I couldn't help but think about Janteyl Johnson. What if Janteyl and her baby had received the same attention and media coverage? Or even a quarter of the coverage this case generated? Chances are maybe their disappearance would be solved by now.
Although heart-wrenching, at least the victims in the Bucks County case will be returned to their families, and justice will soon prevail. Thank goodness the four young men weren't dismissed as just runaways or troubled youth. The chilling details of their deaths, allegedly over drug deals gone wrong, will haunt their families and the community for years to come.
But at least the families have answers, and their sons' cases will not go unsolved. Their case files won't sit somewhere collecting dust. Most important, the parents won't have to live with the not knowing as so many families of missing loved ones do, especially when the missing persons are minorities. Many of those cases don't get any media coverage at all.
The editing process is underway. A more clear timeline of what happened the day Janteyl Johnson vanished is emerging. Did she really run away?
More to come...
May 25 is National Missing Children's Day. It's a day to remember and raise awareness about the thousands of missing children who have yet to come home. Make sure you share a poster of a missing child in your area.
By: Claudia Rivero
Janteyl Johnson's case will be solved. It will be solved because someone is going to do the right thing and come forward with information about her disappearance. That's what I believe.
People who were once afraid to talk may suddenly get a case of loose lips. It's also possible their conscience will get to them and eat away at their sense of peace. Either way, Janteyl Johnson's case will be solved.
I've followed Janteyl's story since she disappeared in 2010. We've put together videos and created this blog to raise awareness about Janteyl and her unborn child. I've spoken to countless people, traveled to multiple states and knocked on more doors than I can recall. Once you start asking questions the pieces of the puzzle slowly start to emerge. I've also reached out to the New Castle County Police countless times to see if they'd be interested in doing a piece about Janteyl, but so far they have not responded with a yes or no.
It doesn't mean that others don't want to keep this unsettling case in the public eye. The Johnson family very much wants to know what happened to their daughter and grandchild, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children would also like to see this case solved. Someone out there knows what happened to Janteyl and her baby, and the time has come for them to speak up. Do the right thing. If you have information about Janteyl Johnson call the New Castle County Police at 302-395-8133. This case will be solved.
More to come...
By: Claudia Rivero
People continue to ask about the older man and/or other individuals possibly linked to the disappearance of Janteyl Johnson. Someone named "Josette" posted the following message after Janteyl's story was featured on The Vanished Podcast:
As previously mentioned, the New Castle County Police have not named any suspects. The case remains open and investigators are hoping to generate leads. What investigators have said from the beginning is that they believe Janteyl left on her own possibly with an older man. They've also stated that she had been in contact with several older men prior to her disappearance.
Here's what we do know:
Feb. 3, 2010: Janteyl Johnson is reported missing by her mother. NCCPD respond to the family's home at 35 Winterhaven Dr. in Bear, DE. They use a K9 unit to assist in the search and activate a reverse 911 call to alert nearby residents of the search.
Feb. 4, 2010: No local media coverage about Janteyl's disappearance. Janteyl Johnson is listed as a runaway who may be traveling with an older man. Per sources, NCCPD investigators focus on at least two people as investigative leads.
Feb. 5, 2010: Delawareonline.com and Websleuths.com run a brief mention about Janteyl's case.
Feb. 11, 2010: The Newarkpostonline.com mentions Janteyl's case.
Feb. 16, 2010: NBC10 Philadelphia runs a story about Janteyl's disappearance. NCCPD confirm they spoke to the man believed to be the father of Janteyl's baby but to no avail.
Feb. 19, 2010: Newark Post briefly mentions Janteyl's disappearance but her picture is placed alongside several individuals wanted for a variety crimes.
April 2010: NBC10 runs a brief story about Janteyl Johnson in which the NCCPD spokesperson says "It doesn't look good" but declines to offer further details.
May 6, 2010: Detective handling Janteyl's case sends information to Porchlight International, an online organization that focuses on missing-persons.
November 2013: According to court records, the man believed to be the father of Janteyl's baby is arrested by New Castle County Police and charged with assault in the third degree, terroristic threatening, offensive touching, and strangulation. The victim is a 19-year-old woman and mother of one of his children.
April 22, 2014: According to court records, the individual pleads guilty to strangulation and is sentenced to probation. He was facing five years in prison but both sides, with the victim's input, agree to probation instead.
September 9, 2016: Janteyl's case is featured on The Vanished Podcast, a popular show that focuses on missing-persons cases. The podcast brings much needed media attention to Janteyl's disappearance. The case remains an open missing person investigation.
The question of whether race plays a role in how the media covers a missing person case comes up often and it's worth discussing. In a Facebook post @Lyngay wonders why I'm "shocked" at the lack of media interest surrounding Janteyl Johnson's disappearance. I'm not shocked. I'm troubled by it and have been writing about this problem for several years. I don't know why Janteyl's case was overlooked. I can't say that it was because of race. What I do believe is that her story is an opportunity to further advance the conversation about how we the media can do a better job covering stories of missing minority children and adults and making sure they aren't ignored.
My job is not to solve Janteyl's case—although if keeping her story in the public eye prompts someone to come forward with information that can help New Castle County Police solve this mystery, that would be great— my job is to ask questions such as: How is it possible for a 15-year-old pregnant girl to mysteriously vanish and seven years later little to nothing is known about her disappearance? What about the baby's father? Did the fact that Janteyl was immediately labeled a runaway and was said to have possibly left on her own with an older man lead to unfair assumptions about her?
Many families of missing people of color will be the first ones to tell you how they've experienced the lack of media interest in their loved ones stories. I believe that's what @Lyngay is trying to point out in her post. The lack of media coverage of missing minority children and adults is a problem that's long been addressed by experts at organizations like The Black and Missing Foundation and in articles like this one by The Denver Post.
An example of the disparity in media coverage was evident in 2002 when California mom-to-be Laci Peterson vanished. Laci's disappearance was top news locally and nationally for months, and rightfully so. Sadly, her body and that of her baby were later found in the San Francisco Bay. Her husband Scott Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 2004.
But what about Evelyn Hernandez? Have you heard of her? Five months before Laci Peterson vanished the Salvadoran immigrant, who was also pregnant, disappeared along with her five-year-old son. Like Laci, Evelyn's remains were also found in the San Francisco Bay, but Evelyn's story was ignored by the media for months. That's not all. Evelyn's five-year-old son has never been found. According to published reports, Herman Aguilera, the father of her unborn child, who was married to someone else at the time, has long been suspected in their disappearance, but police have made no arrests. Their case remains unsolved.
Cases like those of Evelyn Hernandez and Janteyl Johnson are reminders that a person's race and social status shouldn't determine if they are worthy of media coverage. It's well known that coordinated efforts between law enforcement and the media are crucial in all missing person cases, especially during those first critical hours. When a 15-year-old pregnant teen can simply fall off the face of the earth, without answers and without the public knowing, should concern every single one of us. Janteyl Johnson's case should have all of us asking ourselves: What if this happened to my daughter?
As many of you know, Janteyl Johnson's story was recently featured on The Vanished Podcast, a weekly show that covers cases of missing kids and adults from around the country. If you're not familiar with it, I encourage you to check it out. The show's executive producer and host, Marissa Jones, does an outstanding job shedding light on cases that don't get media coverage. Marissa tells me that Janteyl's story has been one the most popular she's featured on her show so far. I'm not surprised given that not many people know about Janteyl Johnson.
As I've stated in the past, Janteyl's disappearance did not generate the kind of media attention that other high-profile cases have received such as those of Laci Peterson, Natalee Holloway, and most recently Elizabeth Thomas, the Tennessee 15-year-old allegedly kidnapped by her 50-year-old teacher.
Many people posted comments after the podcast aired. One of those comments stood out. A person who goes by the name "Gina" wonders why I didn't mention the name of the alleged father of Janteyl's baby. "Gina" also had this to say about Janteyl's family:
First, as far as releasing the name of the man alleged to be the father of Janteyl's baby, let's not forget that New Castle County Police have not identified any suspects in her disappearance. At this point it remains an open missing person case. Even though this individual was questioned and considered an investigative lead, no charges have been filed against anyone.
As far as the Johnson family, just like other families of missing children, they too are dealing with the nightmare of not knowing what happened to their daughter and grandchild. Keep in mind, seven years have passed with no answers. This family was out there in the middle of winter searching for their daughter when she vanished, and that's when they really needed the media's help. Anyone who's ever covered a missing person's case or has watched America's Most Wanted or any other similar show, knows very well that the first few hours are the most critical when a child disappears. It's during those first hours that the media's role is crucial to get information out to the public. The reality is that the more time that goes by the more difficult these cases are to solve.
Also, let's not forget the fact that missing black and Hispanic kids are often not covered by the media. That's a reality. Many experts have addressed this issue including the Black and Missing Foundation and the co-founder of The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, John Walsh.
Just because Janteyl's story didn't air daily on the nightly news doesn't mean her family wasn't out there looking for her, and it certainly doesn't mean they're not out there now still hoping and praying for their daughter's safe return. The Johnsons did speak to the one and only media outlet who acknowledged their existence at the time. And more recently they've allowed our crew to document their heartbreaking journey.
To say: "Did they forget, this is not about them?" is harsh. The Johnsons know very well the pain and torture of having their child ripped away from them because they live this nightmare daily, and they're incredibly grateful to those who have, over the years, stepped up to help them keep Janteyl's story in the public eye.
After Janteyl's story aired on The Vanished Podcast, her mom, Kyma Johnson, sent me an email stating her gratitude for showing interest in her daughter's case. She also explained her sadness and frustration with how they've been criticized by some for not knowing how to navigate the system to keep their story out there. Some people, she says, have even made them feel like they didn't do enough to prevent their daughter's disappearance. Can you imagine? The only people who should be blamed are those who know what happened to Janteyl and are refusing to come forward.
So to conclude this post, how about we keep the focus on encouraging people to contact authorities if they have information about Janteyl's whereabouts? The Johnsons are victims of a cruel and twisted reality that no family should ever have to endure. Let's try putting ourselves in their shoes. Call the New Castle County Police at 302-573-2800 or 1-800-THE LOST
Sept. 8, 2016 marks Janteyl Johnson's 22nd birthday. Her brother Prennis, wanted to share a poem he wrote for Janteyl shortly after she vanished in 2010. He wants her to know how much he loves and misses her.
Me and her was like the twin towers.
We stood together through rough times.
We stood strong.
We were created close to each other and were together for years creating memories.
Been through all the storms and tough winds, but she was struck fiercely and caused damage to others.
Becauz of it, now I'm falling tremendously, awaiting for the time we are built together again to create history.
I miss u so much Puff.
By: Claudia Rivero
When someone disappears investigators usually focus on the people closest to the missing person including family members, significant others, and friends. In Janteyl Johnson's case, since she was five months pregnant when she vanished in 2010, the focus was on her boyfriend; the individual she identified to her family as the father of her baby. He was considered a person of interest at one point and was questioned by the New Castle County Police but to no avail. The NCCPD has released few details about Janteyl's case other than to say that they believe she ran away, possibly with an older man. According to the Johnson family, the man Janteyl said was the father of her baby was the last person who contacted her the afternoon she disappeared.
So who is this older man? As I've mentioned previously, I'm not identifying the individual since he hasn't been named a suspect in this case. According to the Johnson family, they reached out to this man when Janteyl disappeared. They reportedly asked him if he knew anything about their daughter's whereabouts, they posted flyers of Janteyl in his neighborhood, they knocked on doors, they reached out to his family, but nothing.
Fast forward to 2013. According to court records, this individual was arrested for domestic violence involving the mother of one of his children. Court records detail the vicious attack against the young woman for which he was facing five years in prison but was instead sentenced to two years probation and ordered to stay away from the victim. It was a negotiated plea deal in which both parties, with input from the victim, agreed to 18 months probation. The judge, however, extended the sentence to 24 months.
If...IF... this same individual was allegedly the last person who possibly had contact with Janteyl Johnson then it raises even more questions about her disappearance given the nature of his actions in 2013. But according to Robert Lowery Jr., VP of the Missing Children Division at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the biggest challenge investigators face is the lack of concrete evidence in Janteyl's case.
"Police, of course, have looked at a number of leads regarding that individual, and I’m certain if they can locate him it would be very important for him to give us information about where Janteyl may be,” Lowery said. He also adds that it's important to keep an open mind.
“It’s always possible that she wasn’t with that person, and that has to be considered as well.”
Were there other older men that Janteyl was in contact with? Yes, according to investigators. While there are no definitive answers in Janteyl's disappearance, it seems logical to go back to the person who allegedly last contacted her and who she identified to her family as the father of her child, especially if the same individual has a history of violence against women.
If you know anything about Janteyl Johnson's disappearance contact The New Castle County Police Department at (302) 395-8172.
by: Claudia Rivero
It’s something no parent ever wants to think about, but knowing what steps to take if you’re child disappears could make a huge difference in those first critical hours. This is a link to a guide issued by The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which is part of the Department of Justice, and was created by a group of parents whose children disappeared. They share crucial tips of what to do and not do if your child goes missing.