Police say a 14-year-old Florida boy missing for nearly three months apparently witnessed a fatal shooting on a Sarasota vacant lot one week before his disappearance, PEOPLE confirms.
Police have not ruled out a link between the Aug. 28 shooting death of Travis Combs and the disappearance of Jabez Spann, last seen on Sept. 4 at a Labor Day barbecue with his family in the same neighborhood as the killing.
“I’m hoping someone in our community knows something about both these cases,” Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino said in a statement Monday. “We’re asking our community to come forward with information to help us bring Jabez Spann home and bring justice to Travis Combs’ family.”
“From the beginning of both these investigations, our detectives have been working tirelessly to bring peace to both of these families,” DiPino said.
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The connecting thread is found in statements reportedly made by a third figure, Reginald Parker, 55, who allegedly told three persons — including Spann’s aunt and grandmother — that he also had witnessed the shooting of Combs, according to a court document obtained by PEOPLE.
Parker allegedly said that after three males approached the victim in the lot, he saw Spann emerge from a nearby residence, and then heard a gunshot. “Oh my god. Y’all shot him,” Spann said, according to the version of events Parker shared with Spann’s grandmother, Lucille Tillery, the document states.
Parker subsequently denied to police that he witnessed the killing, and also denied speaking about the incident to Spann’s two relatives or a third person, each of whom provided sworn statements to police recounting Parker’s conversations with them.
Police found Combs with a single gunshot to his upper torso. Authorities later arrested and charged Parker on Nov. 8 with accessory after the fact to murder by “impeding the investigation of armed robbery and murder,” claiming that he knew who committed the crime and aided in their escape or detection, according to a probable cause affidavit.
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Parker is being held in Sarasota County Jail on a bond of $250,000, according to jail records, which did not indicate whether he has retained an attorney or entered a plea.
A $25,000 reward is offered for information leading to Spann, who is described as a black male, 5-feet, 9-inches tall and 120 pounds, and last seen wearing a turquoise shirt.
The FBI, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Sarasota Police each are contributing to the reward sum.
Those with information should call Sarasota CrimeStoppers at 941-366-TIPS or go online to www.sarasotacrimestoppers.com, and they may remain anonymous.