“Fortunately we did find her, there’s a lot of parents that, they don’t ever get any closure. You know? They don’t ever get to find their child… but it’s another mission now,” said Syreeta Steward-Hill, of her daughter, Jholie Moussa.
Jholi Moussa, 16, had been missing for two weeks when her body was found on Friday in Woodlawn Park, roughly a mile from her home. By Tuesday, a 17-year-old from Alexandria was in custody, charged with a previous felonious assault on Moussa, naming him a person of interest.
Moussa’s family says they brought that 17-year-old up to police on the Saturday and Sunday after the teen disappeared on Friday the 12.
“They knew about this person on Saturday,” said Steward-Hill.
However, the family was told they couldn’t meet with a detective until that Tuesday because Moussa was labeled a runaway, after leaving the home, telling her sister she would be right back — then sending a text she was going to a party three and a half hours away before her phone went dead.
“You walk out of your door and if you don’t come back you’re a runaway.” said Steward-Hill. “We have got to do better. I don’t want nobody to go through what I’m going through. I don’t want nobody to have the ‘what if’s they had acted.’ I don’t even have a cause or time of death.”
At a press conference Friday, police said Moussa appeared to leave at her own free will, hence the initial label. Wednesday, we followed up. They explained that Moussa was initially labeled as “missing” then “upgraded to endangered on Tuesday.” Explaining that Moussa was initially entered into the system because it appeared she had “wandered off from her home,” and left “at her own free will.” They then elaborated that the endangered classification means someone’s “physical safety is in danger.”
“This year is the year of purpose, Jholie and Zhane and myself decided when 2018 came in we’re gonna know what our purpose is… and I found my purpose my child’s death is not gonna be in vain and I don’t want anybody else to go through this because this is a hurt that I never thought I never imagined enduring in my life,” said Steward-Hill
Steward-Hill says this is just the beginning of her fight — she wants to change the way the runaway label is used.