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Family of Tampa mom still searching for answers in her disappearance, death

Days after she was reported missing in Tampa, the body of 27-year-old Teneisha Griffith was found in part of the Withlacoochee State Forest in rural Pasco County. Investigators are still asking the public for information about her death.
Teneisha Griffith, 27, and her father, Adrian Griffith, celebrate Adrian's birthday in early March. Teneisha was reported missing to the Tampa Police Department on March 21. Less than a week later, her body was found in rural Pasco County.
Teneisha Griffith, 27, and her father, Adrian Griffith, celebrate Adrian's birthday in early March. Teneisha was reported missing to the Tampa Police Department on March 21. Less than a week later, her body was found in rural Pasco County. [ Rena Walters ]
Published Apr. 5|Updated Apr. 5

TAMPA — No matter how difficult life got for Teneisha Griffith, those who love her say she had never been the type to run away or disappear when the going got tough.

Instead, she met challenges with curiosity and optimism, and was “fiercely determined in all that she set her mind to,” her family wrote. She was only 15 when she became pregnant with her daughter Chelsey, yet she still managed to graduate on time from Nature Coast Technical High School in Spring Hill. She was a certified dental assistant but worked hard at whatever jobs she could find to provide for her daughter, never exploiting the love and support provided by her parents and three older sisters.

Maria Thomas, middle, stands with her four daughters, Darcelle Navarro, Rena Walters, Ashley Darling and Teneisha Griffith during a family birthday celebration. Less than a week after Teneisha Griffith was reported missing to the Tampa Police Department on March 21, her body was found in rural Pasco County.
Maria Thomas, middle, stands with her four daughters, Darcelle Navarro, Rena Walters, Ashley Darling and Teneisha Griffith during a family birthday celebration. Less than a week after Teneisha Griffith was reported missing to the Tampa Police Department on March 21, her body was found in rural Pasco County. [ Rena Walters ]

She was funny, optimistic and carefree, with a “firecracker personality” that made her the life of the party, her sisters said. But she also was resilient, responsible and steadfastly loyal to her friends, her family, her employers and her child.

So it didn’t make sense when, on Saturday, March 19, the 27-year-old mother never arrived at a planned get-together with her friends. She never answered the flurry of frantic texts and phone calls that followed that weekend and, when the workweek began, she never showed up to her shifts at an Amazon fulfillment center in Land O’ Lakes.

Five days later, on March 24, Griffith’s body was found in the dense underbrush off a rural Pasco County road in the Lacoochee area, on the outskirts of the wooded Richloam Wildlife Management Area, part of the Withlacoochee State Forest.

She was roughly 52 miles away from her south Tampa apartment. Investigators say they found no indication she planned on traveling to the area.

“The investigation into the circumstances of her death is ongoing,” said Amanda Hunter, spokesperson for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. “However, considering she was reported missing in Tampa and found in a remote part of Lacoochee several days later, and her car is still missing, more information is definitely needed in this case.”

Griffith’s sisters said she came home around 3 p.m. on March 18 after a normal day at the Amazon facility where she worked. Later that evening she texted with her father, but everything that’s happened since remains a mystery.

Pasco deputies are searching for Griffith’s vehicle, a white 2008 Nissan Altima with a missing muffler and Florida tag QSBE04. Anyone with information is asked to call the Pasco Sheriff’s Office at 800-706-2488, Crime Stoppers at 800-873-TIPS, or visit PascoSheriff.com/tips.

Pasco County Sheriff's deputies are searching for a white 2008 Nissan Altima, with Florida tag QSBE04 that belonged to Teneisha Griffith. Griffith, 27, was found dead March 24 in northeast Pasco County.
Pasco County Sheriff's deputies are searching for a white 2008 Nissan Altima, with Florida tag QSBE04 that belonged to Teneisha Griffith. Griffith, 27, was found dead March 24 in northeast Pasco County. [ Pasco County Sheriff's Office ]
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In her obituary, Griffith’s family describes her as a “young woman who was tenacious about life and all it had to offer.”

She was shy as a young girl but blossomed into a social butterfly, her family said. And though she never took life too seriously, she also is remembered as a deeply empathetic woman who was passionate in her support of local social justice movements and was a fierce advocate for racial and gender equality.

“She was optimistic and quick to encourage others,” her obituary says, “illuminating their capabilities and strengths rather than their limitations.”

Griffith found fast friends in a local kickball league near her South Tampa home and never missed Sunday dinners with her mother and stepfather, her daughter and her three sisters, two brothers-in-law and eight nephews.

Sisters Teneisha Griffith, Rena Walters, Darcelle Navarro and Ashley Darling pose together during a birthday celebration for a brother-in-law. Griffith, the youngest of the four sisters, was reported missing March 21 in Tampa. Days later, her body was found in rural Pasco County.
Sisters Teneisha Griffith, Rena Walters, Darcelle Navarro and Ashley Darling pose together during a birthday celebration for a brother-in-law. Griffith, the youngest of the four sisters, was reported missing March 21 in Tampa. Days later, her body was found in rural Pasco County. [ Rena Walters ]

Her funeral took place Monday at Grace Family Church in Lutz, 16 days after Teneisha Griffith inexplicably disappeared. Friends and family wept as they remembered her infectious laugh and gentle spirit, and her sisters released white doves into the air as her casket was lowered into the ground at Trinity Memorial Gardens.

Still, with no explanations for Griffith’s death, her sister Rena Walters said it’s like her family is stuck in a living nightmare.

“We can’t even begin to describe the pain we are feeling,” Walters said. “Teneisha deserved better than this.”

Maria Thomas, middle, stands with her four daughters, Ashley Darling, Darcelle Navarro, Rena Walters and Teneisha Griffith. Days after she was reported missing to the Tampa Police Department, Griffith's body was found in rural Pasco County, leaving her family searching for answers.
Maria Thomas, middle, stands with her four daughters, Ashley Darling, Darcelle Navarro, Rena Walters and Teneisha Griffith. Days after she was reported missing to the Tampa Police Department, Griffith's body was found in rural Pasco County, leaving her family searching for answers. [ Rena Walters ]

Friends have also created a Go Fund Me page, called “Missing Tampa Woman Found Deceased,” to help Griffith’s family pay for funeral expenses and to help provide for her daughter. By Tuesday afternoon, the page had raised about $4,000 of its $10,000 goal.

The Tampa Police Department said Teneisha Griffith was last seen in south Tampa on March 18. Griffith's family is still looking for answers in her disappearance.
The Tampa Police Department said Teneisha Griffith was last seen in south Tampa on March 18. Griffith's family is still looking for answers in her disappearance. [ The Tampa Police Department ]
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