The body of a 16-year-old from Alexandria, Va., was found Friday less than a mile from her home.
Jholie Moussa had been missing for about two weeks when police found her body covered in leaves in Woodlawn Park in Fairfax County, the second time police say they searched the park.
On the day Jholie went missing, her twin sister, Zhane Moussa, said that Jholie had acted distracted in school.
“She was doing my hair and then she stopped, for a good minute, to text some more. Then, out of nowhere, she was like, ‘I gotta go, I gotta go!’” Zhane told NBC 4 Washington.
Jholie later responded to her sister’s text, saying that she was going to Norfolk, about three hours away, and would be right back.
That evening, the girls’ mother, Syreeta Steward, said she missed a call from her daughter and never heard anything from her again.
Her family reported her missing the next day.
Jholie’s parents said in media interviews that they felt Jholie might be in danger, but did not believe the police were treating the case with urgency. Jholie’s disappearance was treated as a “runaway” case, which traditionally does not receive the resources or attention that kidnapping cases do.
As The Root contributor Preston Mitchum wrote:
But what’s still abundantly clear is that young black girls are missing, and many don’t care. The lack of rage over these young girls reveals a troubling truth: Missing girls are oftentimes immediately thought of as “runaways” who are not being harmed by systems of exploitation and victimization.
This mindset allows black girls to experience harm and trauma, while the assumption that girls are runaways puts the blame on caregivers, removes the government’s role and implies that these girls got what they deserved for being “fast”—stereotypes of oftentimes physically, emotionally and psychologically abused girls.
On Jan. 16, Jholie’s mother and sister posted a Facebook message begging Jholie to come home. The FBI joined the investigation the next day, according to NBC 4.
The Washington Post reports that Cyrille Moussa, Jholie’s father, told a local media outlet that Jholie received a call on Jan. 12 from a 12-year-old boy’s cellphone. The father said that the boy later told him that a man asked the boy to borrow his phone so he could make the call.
Julie Parker, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Police Department, pushed back on the parents’ claims that authorities were not taking the case seriously.
“Our understanding was that she had voluntarily left home, and there were no signs of foul play,” she said.
Parker said that Jholie’s body was identified by appearance and a tattoo—an infinity symbol on her right shoulder, which had her and her twin’s names etched into it.
Police say they were awaiting a cause and manner of death from the coroner and declined comment on a motive or suspects.
Her family posted a note on the Facebook page Saturday, asking that the public allow the family to “grieve in peace.”
Thank you for your constant support, efforts and prayers. It pains us to announce that Jholie has been found. At this time we thank you all for your well wishes and your condolences. We just ask that you let our family take this time to grieve in peace. Please forward all questions and concerns to the firstname.lastname@example.org email address. For those interested in donating to the family please do so via PayPal using the email@example.com email address. Thank you for respecting the family’s wishes. God Bless you all.