"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.
Emmy Award winning reporter Claudia Rivero.