Family members, community’s pressure on local law enforcement to do better in search for missing teen is a bittersweet victory after mother is detained for neglect.
The family of JaShyah Moore rejoiced when local law enforcement located the missing 14-year-old teen in New York after 28 days of relentless searching. Yet, their jubilee was crushed when police arrested Jaime Moore, the teen’s mother. She was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
“This is what happens when you hold people accountable,” an Essex County resident close to the Moore family said to Ark Republic. The person asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals from law enforcement.
On Friday, in a joint press conference by the Essex County Prosecutor’s office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and East Orange Police Department (EOPD), JaShyah “was found unharmed,” Theodore Stephens II, Acting Essex County Prosecutor announced.
At the conference, Prosecutor Stephens praised several local and federal law enforcement for their work in the disappearance of JaShyah. He mentioned that the case, which was initially filed with the East Orange Police Department, will remain there, as the agency “has been the source of excellent work.”
East Orange’s Mayor Ted Green also spoke at the conference stating that JaShyah was “our child” and that the “number one priority is to make sure that [the] collaboration [of law enforcement and government agencies] is to bring that young lady home to her family.”
Added, the FBI’s Assistant Special Agent Greg Takis expressed that “our heart goes out to Ms. Moore . . . it’s every parent’s nightmare,” to experience the ordeal of a missing child. He explained that the agency was a part of the case “in a support capacity . . . [to] leverage every asset we have to reunite a mother and her daughter.” Further detailing, Takis said the FBI had agents on the ground canvassing the area.
| Watch: Finding JaShyah
Around or near the same time of the conference, Jaime Moore, who is 39 years old, went to meet with the FBI at the prosecutor’s office. Instead, she was arrested by Essex County authorities. Her other child, a three-year-old son, was also taken and placed into child protective services. Police efforts showed it was far from a reunification as they claimed in the press conference.
Prior to the meeting, Ms. Moore, and her sister, Yolanda Aguilera, told Ark Republic that authorities provided very little information about JaShyah being found. To their knowledge, the meeting with FBI officials was to discuss JaShyah’s return. They were under the assumption that they would either be reunited with JaShyah or at the very least, see her.
Aguilera said authorities revealed to them that JaShyah cut her signature hairstyle of a braided bun, but was found in New York City after a Harlem resident recognized the teen. “All I want to do was hug her,” said Aguilera. That long overdue hug has been postponed, for now.
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While the Essex County Prosecutor’s press conference narrated a positive collaborative effort to find JaShyah, community members claim quite the opposite. “[East Orange] police and the mayor need to be held to account, they did not look for baby girl until the case received widespread attention,” community activist Africa Ibang posted on Facebook. Ibang is one of several activists who took to the streets to help in JaShyah’s search when weeks went by without substantial updates on the case from law enforcement. He also participated in demonstrations to protest what he calls “malfeasance” carried out by EOPD.
For several weeks, JaShyah’s family canvassed East Orange and the surrounding areas. Their search started when the teen did not return home on October 14. According to Aguilera, on the day of her disappearance, JaShyah told her mother that she dropped the mom’s ATM card on a trip to the local bodega known as Poppie’s Deli. At the time, Jaime Moore, the mother, had been receiving treatments for a life-threatening illness. Fatigued from her health-challenge and subsequent aggressive regimen of medical therapy, she suggested that her daughter retrace her footsteps to see if she could find the card.
JaShyah’s trip to the bodega was a regular occasion. The city’s camera footage shows JaShyah walking on Central Avenue, a main thoroughfare, looking for something. It also displayed her walking into Poppie’s Deli. But after she did not return within the normal time, her mother went to find her. Walking near the deli and around her home, there was no sign of the teen who Aguilera describes as an “introverted gamer.”
JaShyah was a homebody who family say did not know how to take the train, and never ran away. Ms. Moore knew in the pit of her stomach that something was wrong. Eventually, she flagged down an East Orange patrol car to report that her child was nowhere to be found. But the family said that it would take days for the EOPD to actively launch a search. Then it was only after them calling East Orange’s mayor along with the FBI.
Rather than wait for EOPD, the family started their own investigation. Early into the case, they went to Poppie’s Deli to ask the store owner about JaShyah. While there, they discovered EOPD detectives at the deli too. “When we were in that bodega and talking to those officers, they just, one at a time, started buying snacks [and] walked out of the bodega. The owner had to chase them and say, ‘hey look you originally came here to see these cameras.’
The “lack of urgency” displayed by EOPD detectives incited an uptick in the family’s efforts in forming daily search parties. Part of the concern was that both JaShyah and her mother were subpoenaed to testify in a domestic violence case against Ms. Moore’s estranged husband, Justin Jackson, a cop at the East Orange police division. An incident report details that Ms. Moore and JaShyah were struck by Jackson. Currently, Jackson is suspended for the incident that took place in April 2020.
While Jackson’s trial is scheduled for this coming Monday, November 15, it is unknown at press time if Ms. Moore would be released in time to testify. Overall, authorities say Jackson has been cooperative, but family notes he did not participate in the search.
At the time of JaShyah’s disappearance, Ms. Moore was renting from Clyde “Omar” Muse (also spelled Muze) in East Orange. She moved into Muse’s home shortly after the domestic violence incident with her husband. Although Muse is not the biological father of JaShyah, Ms. Moore describes him as a “father-figure” to the teen. Ms. Moore and Muse are not in a romantic relationship.
Black girl lost
Ultimately, the family’s canvassing caught the support of community members who joined efforts. So strong was community response that regular prayer vigils occurred between street patrols. For additional support, family and residents used social media to spread the word. A Newark activist, Donna Jackson, went to the headquarters of the East Orange Police Department to collect a flyer to help out. On Facebook Live, she reported that the department did not even have a flyer of the missing child displayed in the building for the public to see.
“Who are your missing persons [staff] and why didn’t they do anything . . . why did they allow this case to sit . . . no one is being held accountable,” said Jackson who also called for the Mayor Green to respond.
On the other hand, Aguilera told Ark Republic that the EOPD assured the family they were distributing flyers. As well, she said that officers informed her that they reviewed other business owner’s cameras in the area, but it seemed as if JaShyah dropped out of the frame on Central Avenue without any direction of where she went. Included in their investigation, they also reported to family members that they asked local residents for information.
Contrastingly, Ibang said EOPD did not do their job. Performing his own inquiry, he went to business owners who had stores within a two-black radius of Poppie’s Deli. While there, he asked them if EOPD questioned them about JaShyah. They all said no. According to Ibang, this was also the case for residents. An inside source informed Ark Republic that at one point, only one detective worked on the case.
Growing disappointment with officials resulted in protests by local organizers. The call from the community was for agencies to treat JaShyah’s disappearance like that of Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old social media notable who went missing in August of this year. Petito was a white woman from a middle-class family on a driving tour with her intimate partner, Brian Laundrie.
Following a high-profile search that included daily updates across all major news bureaus, Petito’s body was found in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park on September 19. She was strangled. Her boyfriend, Laundrie was presumed the main suspect, but his remains were found weeks after Petito’s body. Police say his decomposed body was identified through dental records.
In an interview with Ark Republic, Aguilera offered condolences to Petito’s family for what she called a “nightmare,” but also wondered if EOPD’s display of unconcern was due to JaShyah being a “dark-skinned girl.”
Before the police eventually pounded the pavement, as they say they did, community members then local activists and organizations joined the search for JaShyah. To further the organic movement to find her, volunteers both near and far, employed their social media networks and used other forms of word-of-mouth. In spite of what the community saw as neglect from East Orange officials, growing attention regarding JaShyah’s disappearance caught local news agencies. In due course, her case made nationwide press.
Black girl found
On November 5, twenty-two days after Ms. Moore’s initial report, East Orange held a press conference about JaShayah. During the event, authorities announced that there was $15,000 reward offered. Some of the money came from a private donor. Shortly thereafter, the family started a GoFundMe account to help pay for the purchase of flyers, posters, tee shirts for volunteers.
For reasons yet unclear, Essex County Prosecutor’s Office removed EOPD from leading the investigation. The FBI was also working on the case. Finally, law enforcement moved with the expediency they requested at the start of their ordeal.
According to family members, they had been cooperating with all agencies the whole time, although they were provided limited information and updates. Unfortunately, it took the family almost two weeks to receive what they’d begged law enforcement for: support. Yet and still, those who supported continued to help because the reward for any information on JaShyah increased to $20,000.
When the family got the call that authorities located JaShyah, they’d just finished an evening canvassing East Orange. Updating the growing network of supporters of the news on social media, they cried in relief. “I finally was able to get some sleep,” said a relieved Ms. Moore to Ark Republic.
But rest and joy was short-lived. Ms. Moore is detained and in need of medication and therapy. “If we didn’t shut Central Avenue down [to protest the police not doing enough], if we didn’t do what we did, that mother would be home,” stressed Ibang in a Facebook Live he did after finding out about Ms. Moore’s arrest.
“They’re railroading her,” commented Yolanda Johnson in Ibang’s Facebook Live talk. Johnson said she met Ms. Moore while canvassing the East Orange area with other community members in the search for JaShyah.
Law enforcement reported that Ms. Moore will be lodged in the Essex County Correctional Facility pending an appearance in the Essex County Central Judicial Processing (CJP) Court. “The charges against the defendant are merely accusations. She is presumed innocent at this time,” the release by the City of East Orange emphasized.
Since Ms. Moore’s arrest, the family has not made any public statements.
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