TAMPA — Nahshon Shannon will get 15 years in prison for killing his 13-year-old daughter, Janessa, in 2017, a Hillsborough judge decided Thursday.
Shannon, who received the maximum sentence, maintained his innocence in a brief statement to the court.
“I’m challenging the jury’s verdict. They were wrong,” the 43-year-old man said. “I didn’t kill my daughter. I didn’t hurt her.”
A jury found Shannon guilty of third-degree felony murder and child abuse charges on Sept. 27 after 14 hours of deliberation over two days. He had initially been charged with first-degree felony murder and aggravated child abuse.
At Thursday’s sentencing hearing, Judge Samantha Ward dropped the charge of child abuse after the defense argued Shannon would be facing “double jeopardy” if he were sentenced for both third-degree murder and child abuse.
Shannon will get credit for the six years he has spent in a Hillsborough County jail without bail while awaiting trial, Ward said. In Florida, people who are incarcerated are often released after serving 85% of their sentence. These factors combined mean Shannon may spend less than seven years in prison.
Michelle Mosley, Janessa’s mother, prepared a written statement read by the state. She directed her words at Shannon.
“She deserved so much more and you ripped her future from her,” she wrote. “We all know who did it.”
“Today is the day I can finally breathe.”
Mosley declined to comment immediately after the sentence was delivered, but sent a Tampa Bay Times reporter a text on Friday morning saying that she had hoped to see Shannon get a life sentence and that she was “disgusted” with the outcome of the trial.
“I did not receive justice for Janessa and I will not ever come to accept the sentencing,” she wrote in a text message. “The judge dismissed the aggravated child abuse charges but Janessa was beat to death. I can’t make sense of that.”
Shannon’s conviction and sentencing wrapped up an investigation that started when Shannon reported his daughter missing the day after he said she disappeared from his Cocoa Beach Drive home in Riverview on July 2, 2017.
One week later, Janessa Shannon’s decomposed body was found in a black plastic garbage bag in an isolated area of the Triple Creek Nature Preserve off Balm Boyette Road in Riverview.
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Janessa’s nose was broken and she had fractures above two teeth, according to forensic evidence. The Hillsborough medical examiner found multiple bleeding areas on the back of Janessa’s head and in her neck muscles that indicated Janessa had been strangled, Hillsborough Assistant State Attorney Jessica O’Connor said during the trial. The girl’s death was ruled a homicide from blunt force trauma.
Toxicology tests revealed Janessa had alcohol and cocaine in her system, and that the substances had been ingested within six hours of her death.
Two days before Janessa was reported missing, Shannon had picked her up from her mother’s home in Bradenton, according to Mosley’s testimony during the trial. Mosley texted Shannon, who had primary custody of the teen, asking him to pick up Janessa after she had sneaked out of the home the night before.
During the September trial, Mosley testified that Shannon appeared angry and Janessa seemed scared when he came to pick up the girl in a black Jeep Cherokee.
“When Janessa Shannon got into the Jeep Grand Cherokee, that was the last time she saw her daughter alive,” O’Connor said on Sept. 18.
Upon leaving Mosley’s house, prosecutors say Shannon texted his girlfriend, “I need you to go to your place, I need to deal with Nessa.”
During the trial, O’Connor said gaps in Shannon’s responses to his girlfriend’s texts that night gave him enough time to kill Janessa and bury her body in the southeastern Hillsborough nature preserve, which was about a 13-minute drive from Shannon’s home at the time. Shannon texted his girlfriend around 6:08 p.m. the next day, saying that he’d checked Janessa’s room and found she wasn’t there.
“He does not report her missing to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office until July 3, the next day, at 12:58 p.m.,” O’Connor told the jury during the trial.
A screw and a soil sample collected by investigators from the scene where Janessa’s body was found became pivotal evidence in Shannon’s prosecution.
A plastic bag containing a small amount of soil was taken from his Jeep Cherokee and determined to be a 99.9% match to soil taken from a shallow grave where Janessa was buried, O’Connor said. A shovel investigators found in the garage of Shannon’s Riverview home carried mixed sediments matching both dirt in his yard and dirt from the park.
Investigators found the Fiskar shovel had been “modified” with additional holes, and two screws were about to fall out. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said there were “no differences” between the screws on the shovel and the one found at the scene.