Before Janessa Shannon's death, parents traded accusations of abuse

Janessa Shannon, 13, was found dead July 12 in the Triple Creek Nature Preserve in Hillsborough County. [National Center for Missing and Exploited Children]
Janessa Shannon, 13, was found dead July 12 in the Triple Creek Nature Preserve in Hillsborough County. [National Center for Missing and Exploited Children]
Published Jul. 22, 2017

TAMPA — Long before Janessa Shannon's remains were discovered in a Hillsborough County nature preserve, her parents tried to convince court officials that she was in danger.

From her own family.

A child support battle between her mother, Michelle Mosley, 35, and father, Nahshon Shannon, 37, had played out in court in Manatee County almost all of the 13-year-old girl's life.

"Nahshon and his family have severe problems controlling their anger," the mother wrote in a 2008 court document. "I fear someone in his family will hurt my children."

"This is truly unsafe," the father wrote in a court document last year. "Mother is unfit to provide a safe environment for the children."

Hillsborough sheriff's officials have named no suspects in Janessa's death. She was reported missing July 3 from her father's Riverview home. A hiker found her decomposing body nine days later in the wooded, isolated Triple Creek Nature Preserve.

Sheriff's Col. Donna Lusczynski said the father had initially been helpful but hired a lawyer and stopped cooperating with detectives in the investigation.

However she died, Janessa lived on a battleground between two feuding parents, amid unproven allegations of abuse.

• • •

In 2004, the Florida Department of Revenue filed a child support enforcement case against the father on behalf of Mosley and Janessa, who was barely a year old at the time.

Things were about to get more complicated.

Shannon had burglary and battery charges hanging over him from a July 27, 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. One victim was a girl who did not know him, the report said. On those counts and two others, Shannon landed in state prison from 2005 to 2007.

He is now an IT network contractor, according to his LinkedIn page.

Mosley, who says she works at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, has no criminal record in Florida.

The year after Shannon left prison, he filed an emergency request for custody of Janessa and her younger sister, records show. He accused their grandfather, Larry Mosley, of sexually abusing Janessa. He also wrote that Michelle Mosley drank and used drugs.

Michelle Mosley responded, writing that the allegations were untrue. She said Shannon wanted custody so he could avoid having to pay child support.

That was when she alleged that Shannon's family had problems controlling anger. The Department of Children and Families investigated.

An excerpt of an investigative report from an unnamed agency was filed in court Sept. 2, 2008, with a letter from Larry Mosley. The report said that neither Janessa nor her sisters expressed any fear of their grandfather. A forensic interview with Janessa uncovered no evidence of sexual abuse, the report stated.

The report noted Shannon's criminal history and Mosley's refusal to submit to drug screening. But it said the children appeared to be cared for adequately.

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Subscribe to our free DayStarter newsletter

We’ll deliver the latest news and information you need to know every weekday morning.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

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

The next year, on Aug. 25, she requested court-ordered protection from Shannon. In a petition, she described an argument they had when she visited his home to retrieve clothing and jewelry. Insults were exchanged. Mosley told him to stop calling her names.

"What are you gonna do, call the police?" he said, according to Mosley's petition.

"If you do call the police, that will be your last time," he told her, according to the petition. "I'll make sure you never wake up and I'll make that call worth it."

Mosley wrote that she suspected Shannon came into her home when she wasn't there and cut the phone and cable lines. She said Shannon "has abused me and my father in the past" and accused him of harassing her family.

"I'm afraid he is gonna try to do more than what he has done," she wrote.

She did not specify the type of abuse she was alleging.

Her injunction was granted that September. But two months later, Mosley asked that it be dissolved. She wrote that they had resolved their differences and said she no longer believed Shannon was a threat.

By 2013, Janessa was still living with her father, but her younger sister was living with their mother. In a petition to modify child support payments, Mosley wrote that Shannon's girlfriend "was abusing our daughter" — the younger girl — leading the parents to agree that she should live with the mother. Again, the alleged conduct of the girlfriend was not described in detail.

In 2014, Shannon and Mosley signed a "parental agreement," in which they acknowledged that shared parenting responsibilities were in the best interests of both girls. They agreed to cooperate with each other in raising the children.

The agreement didn't stop the volley of accusations.

In September 2015, Shannon reported that Mosley had not returned the girls to him after a planned visit. On Sept. 14, Mosley wrote that Janessa had shown her a letter in which a young family member described sexual abuse by Shannon.

In later court filings, Mosley said DCF had recommended Shannon should have "supervised timesharing only," while Shannon said he had been "cleared" of wrongdoing. Neither offered evidence of their claims.

A judge granted custody to Mosley and supervised visits with Shannon.

Meanwhile, Shannon complained that the girls were having unsupervised contact with their grandfather, and that the younger sister had suffered a black eye.

Then, for reasons that are unclear, Shannon requested paternity testing to determine if he was the younger sister's biological father. A judge denied his request, noting the 2014 parental agreement in which Shannon acknowledged being the father of both girls.

Among the most recent documents in the child support case is a letter from Mosley, dated in late December. In it, she asks a judge to change the prior order restricting her father's access to his grandchildren.

The current custody arrangement is unclear.

• • •

Reached Wednesday by phone, Mosley told a Tampa Bay Times reporter to call back later, but did not return subsequent messages. Her father spoke with a reporter briefly Wednesday outside their Bradenton home.

Two days before Janessa vanished, he said, Mosley called Shannon and told him to take the girl home. Janessa had gotten in trouble for sneaking out.

"Michelle was just getting tired of her because she just didn't listen," Larry Mosley said. "She said, 'If you can handle her, she'd better stay with you.' "

Shannon previously told a Times reporter that Janessa ate dinner July 1, then went to her room. When he checked on her the next day, she was gone. He assumed she was upset and had gone for a walk. When she hadn't returned by July 3, he reported her missing.

The area where Janessa was found is rugged and secluded, dominated by shrubs, trees and wetlands. Woods span the roughly 21/2 miles between the winding two-lane stretch of Balm Boyette Road to the east, and Balm Riverview Road to the west. Traffic is sparse.

The preserve entrance is about 8 miles from Shannon's home on Cocoa Beach Drive in Riverview. Sheriff's detectives searched the home last week. Since the homicide investigation began, Shannon has stopped talking to investigators, sheriff's officials said.

He also stopped responding to reporters' questions.

In response to a Facebook message from the Times, Shannon sent a photo of a card with text detailing how to assert one's Fifth Amendment rights if questioned by police. A woman who answered Shannon's phone Thursday directed a reporter to Eric Stupel, a Miami defense attorney. Stupel did not return a call for comment.

Times staff writer Anastasia Dawson contributed to this report.