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Father charged in 13-year-old Janessa Shannon's death

Nashon Shannon, right, speaks at the memorial service for his 13-year-old daughter, Janessa Shannon, on July 22. Inset is a photo of Janessa. [LUIS SANTANA | TIMES]
Nashon Shannon, right, speaks at the memorial service for his 13-year-old daughter, Janessa Shannon, on July 22. Inset is a photo of Janessa. [LUIS SANTANA | TIMES]
Published Oct. 6, 2017

TAMPA — Nahshon Shannon once told a judge his ex-girlfriend was "unfit to provide a safe environment" for their children.

On Thursday, authorities charged him with the murder of their 13-year-old daughter, Janessa.

Shannon, 37, was arrested at his home on charges of first-degree felony murder and aggravated child abuse.

"I knew from the very beginning," the girl's mother, Michelle Mosley, told the Tampa Bay Times. "My only words to him would be 'How could you?'"

The arrest capped a three-month homicide investigation, which began after Janessa's body was found July 12 in the rugged, isolated Triple Creek Nature Preserve in southeastern Hillsborough.

Her father had reported her missing July 3, a day after he said she had vanished from his home.

The law enforcement response to her disappearance drew criticism from friends and relatives, who questioned whether enough had been done.

But a terse narrative offered by sheriff's Col. Donna Lusczynski at a news conference Thursday pointed to the possibility that the girl's life had ended before anyone realized she was missing.

"What we will tell you is that on July 1, Nahshon Shannon picked Janessa up at her mother's residence in Bradenton due to some behavioral issues," Lusczynski said.

"We know Nahshon and Janessa came back to his residence in Riverview here in Hillsborough County. At some point, Nahshon and Janessa got into an argument, ultimately ending in the death of Janessa."

The cause of death was not released.

A felony murder charge typically applies when someone is killed during commission of another serious offense, including aggravated child abuse, the other charge against Shannon.

Janessa was 5 feet tall and weighed 70 pounds less than her father, records show.

Lusczynski said Shannon took his daughter's body to the preserve, where it was buried in a shallow grave. A hiker's tip led authorities there.

"Any homicide is horrible," Lusczynski said, "but a homicide of a 13-year-old is extremely tragic and disturbing, even for our seasoned detectives."

She noted that investigators had worked on the case every day since Janessa's body was found.

She also said the Sheriff's Office got help from several other agencies, including law enforcement entities in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Shannon is known to have traveled to Philadelphia for work shortly after his daughter was reported missing.

Early on, Lusczynski said Shannon was not cooperating with investigators.

"Nothing he said added up," Mosley said. "It's been hell having to wait. Knowing but not knowing. Getting the answer I already knew. It's been an emotional roller coaster."

The parents, who shared two children, had traded allegations of abuse in court documents throughout most of Janessa's life.

In 2008, Shannon filed a request for custody of the girls, claiming Mosley drank and used drugs. The request came the year after he left prison for a 2000 incident in which he, at age 20, entered a home and attacked two 17-year-olds, according to a Manatee County Sheriff's Office report.

Shannon has a lengthy arrest history that includes convictions for 11 felonies and nine misdemeanors. The felonies include battery and burglary.

A Manatee judge awarded Shannon primary custody of the children, with Mosley afforded weekend visits.

The next year, Mosley requested court-ordered protection from Shannon, whom she said threatened her after an argument and previously abused her family.

Her injunction was granted that September. But two months later, she asked that it be dissolved, writing that she no longer considered him a threat.

Then in 2014, the two signed a "parental agreement," in which they acknowledged that shared parenting responsibilities were in the best interests of both girls.

But a year later, after further allegations by both parents, a judge granted custody to the mother and supervised visits for the father.

In the wake of Janessa's death, there were community rallies and public outpourings of grief near her father's home in Riverview and her mother's home in Bradenton.

Shannon organized a vigil at Rodgers Middle School.

He spoke tearfully, recalling the day Janessa was born.

"I was so excited to see my daughter, my first child," he said. "There was nothing more beautiful in this world."

In the weeks that followed, he shared several photos and videos featuring his daughter on his Facebook page.

He made his last post, a letter addressed to "self," on Sept. 21.

"Don't get worked up over things you can't change, people you can't change," it read. "It's not worth the anger build up or the headache. Control only what you can. Let go."

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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