TAMPA — An officer pulled up to Jerlean Moore's house the morning of Sept. 18 and knocked on her door.
He quickly assured a nervous Moore she wasn't in trouble. But she needed to call the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, he said.
Moore's first thought: Something had happened to her daughter.
Tjhisha Monique Ball, 18, had been traveling back and forth from Tampa to Jacksonville for more than two years while working as an exotic dancer. Moore, 54, assumed Ball had run into trouble.
The officer dialed the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office on his cellphone and handed it to her. The deputy on the other end told Moore the worst news of her life: They had found Ball dead on the side of the road, along with another Tampa woman.
Moore shrieked. Her second-oldest daughter, Crystal, took the phone from her hysterical mother. Crystal, too, began to shake and cry.
The other woman was Angelia Ella Mangum, 19, of Tampa, who also danced in Jacksonville.
More than a month later, the families still don't know much about what happened. The Sheriff's Office has been tight-lipped about the incident. No suspects have been named, and autopsy reports and the official causes of death have not been made available. Authorities have not even released details about how the women were found.
All they will say is the investigation is ongoing.
Moore waits and prays for news from deputies.
"I ask God to work with the detectives, to protect them from harm and danger," she said. "To look over the detectives as they go through this case, to give them knowledge, to make their homes happy so they can do a good, diligent job."
She said she believes whole-heartedly they're going to find those responsible, that it's just a matter of time.
"God already told me he's going to take care of this for me," Moore said. "Every time my phone rings, I'm like 'Oh, that's the call.' I keep that faith."
Her daughter was outgoing and happy-go-lucky, and always had a smile on her face, Moore said. And she always had a sense of fashion. "When she was a little girl, she used to just change clothes over and over," Moore said.
Ball started dancing and traveling to Jacksonville in secret when she was 16 after she dropped out of high school. At first, Moore said, it was just weekend trips. The family caught on pretty quickly.
But as Ball got older, she began spending weeks or months at a time living and working in Jacksonville, staying with Mangum in motels they paid for with work money.
Once in a while, Ball called home for some extra cash to pay for a room, and Moore would wire her money. "Even if we didn't like her lifestyle, we never rejected her," Moore said. "So if you want to call that enabling, well, I enabled her, 'cause it's my child."
To make Moore feel comfortable, Ball brought home her friends from Jacksonville to introduce them to her mother. She also agreed to call or text Moore every day to let her know she was all right.
Moore encouraged Ball to pursue other endeavors. Ball decided she wanted to be a real estate agent when she got older, and had just gone back to school to attain her GED.
"It doesn't matter what people do, or how you do it, you could be a priest and get killed," Moore said. "Maybe it's just the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people doing the wrong thing."
While Moore waits to hear from authorities, she said she tries to stay busy to keep from fixating on the incident. She wants to go into churches and encourage kids to stay in school so they don't suffer the same fate as her daughter.
"That can keep her name alive," Moore said. "Even losing her, I can save more than we lost."
Moore said she plans on making a trip to Jacksonville before Christmas to meet with local authorities and remind them that the teens were loved. "Everybody belongs to somebody," she said.
State records indicate Ball had previously been arrested on a cocaine charge, which was dropped, and for driving without a license. Mangum was arrested twice as a juvenile on burglary and larceny charges. More recently, she faced a charge for failing to appear in Hillsborough County court.
Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Times staff writer Keeley Sheehan contributed to this report. Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 226-3446 or [email protected]