TAMPA — A Hillsborough jury on Wednesday found Nahshon Shannon guilty of killing his 13-year-old daughter, Janessa, in 2017.
The jury concluded Nahshon Shannon was guilty of third-degree felony murder and child abuse charges after about 14 hours of deliberations over two days in a trial that began on Sept. 18. He had been charged with first-degree felony murder and aggravated child abuse.
Shannon, 44, sat quietly and stared straight ahead, stone-faced, while the jury’s verdict was read.
The verdict caps off an investigation that began six years ago, after Nahshon Shannon reported his daughter missing a day after she vanished from his Cocoa Beach Drive home in Riverview on July 3, 2017.
Janessa Shannon’s decomposed body was found nine days later, on July 12, in a black plastic garbage bag in a secluded area of the Triple Creek Nature Preserve off Balm Boyette Road in Riverview.
Authorities arrested Nahshon Shannon three months later on charges related to his daughter’s death. As the years have passed, Nahshon Shannon has remained in the Falkenburg Road Jail without bond.
In an opening statement on Sept. 18, Hillsborough Assistant State Attorney Jessica O’Connor argued that evidence she compared to “puzzle pieces” would be presented to the jury over the next week, proving Nahshon Shannon killed his daughter.
“Every single one of those puzzle pieces fits together,” O’Connor said in a closing argument Tuesday. “When you put those pieces together, you see one thing — Nahshon Shannon is the one who is responsible for the death of Janessa Shannon.”
On July 1, 2017, Nahshon Shannon picked up Janessa from the Bradenton home of her mother, Michelle Mosley. Mosley had texted Nahshon Shannon, who had primary custody of the teen, to pick up Janessa after she’d sneaked out of the home the night before.
Mosley testified in court last week that Nahshon Shannon appeared angry when he came to pick up Janessa in a black Jeep Cherokee, and that the girl seemed scared.
“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.
Mosley declined to comment on Nahshon Shannon’s conviction after the jury delivered its verdict Wednesday evening.
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When Nahshon Shannon left Mosley’s house, he texted his girlfriend, “I need you to go to your place, I need to deal with Nessa.”
In her closing argument, O’Connor said gaps in Nahshon Shannon’s response time to his girlfriend’s texts that night gave him time to kill Janessa and bury her body in a shallow grave in the isolated nature preserve in southeastern Hillsborough County. The following day, Nahshon Shannon texted his girlfriend, saying he’d checked on Janessa’s room and she wasn’t there.
The Hillsborough medical examiner found multiple areas of bleeding on the back of Janessa’s head and in her neck muscles that indicated Janessa had injuries “consistent with being strangled,” O’Connor said. The death was ruled a homicide from blunt force trauma.
Toxicology tests showed the girl had alcohol and cocaine in her system that had been ingested within six hours of her death.
Investigators with the sheriff’s office collected a screw and a soil sample from the scene where Janessa’s body was found, which became fundamental to the state’s case.
While searching Nahshon Shannon’s home, investigators found a shovel with two screws that were about to fall out and additional holes. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement analyzed the screws on the shovel and the one found at the scene and said there were “no differences.”
Investigators also found a plastic bag in Nahshon Shannon’s Jeep that contained a small amount of soil. The chemical makeup of that soil was a 99.9% match to soil taken from the grave, O’Connor said.
Nahshon Shannon’s attorney, William Bennett, tried to poke holes in the state’s case Tuesday in his closing argument and alleged the Sheriff’s Office investigation was flawed. He argued that the state’s case was “missing a lot of pieces in this puzzle.”
Bennett argued the state had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Nahshon Shannon killed his daughter. In the instance of the screw found at the crime scene, Bennett said a more sophisticated analysis should have been completed on the screw, and that there was not enough evidence to prove it matched the ones on the shovel found in Nahshon Shannon’s home.
Bennett also said Nahshon Shannon’s Jeep, which was confiscated by police, was left unattended, and evidence, like the dirt in the car, was not photographed.
Bennett later showed a video taken from a home near Nahshon Shannon’s residence the night that Janessa disappeared. He asked the jury to consider a red car that appears in the tape and a blurry figure seen near Janessa’s window. Bennett argued that the Sheriff’s Office did not properly investigate the video and that the person seen in the video may have had a part in Janessa’s death.
Shannon will remain in jail until the sentencing hearing, set for Nov. 9 at 4 p.m. He faces up to 20 years in prison.