The body of a teenage girl who police had labeled a runaway when she vanished two weeks ago has been found near her home in a Virginia suburb of Washington.
The death of Jholie Moussa, 16, of Alexandria, is being investigated as a homicide, Kent Bailey, a Fairfax County police officer, said Monday. An officer discovered the remains Friday in a wooded area of Woodlawn Neighborhood Park, less than a mile from the teen’s home. The body was “almost entirely covered by leaves and brush,” Bailey said.
Moussa’s family reported her missing on Jan. 13, the day after she abruptly left home after Snapchatting with an unknown person, according to her mother, Syreeta Steward. Police labeled the teen a runaway juvenile, which angered her mother, who described Moussa as a 10th-grade honors student with no history of running away.
“Just because she voluntarily left her home does not mean she voluntarily left her block,” Steward told HuffPost on Wednesday. “Labeling her a runaway takes away a sense of urgency.”
Police said they identified the body based its appearance, including a tattoo on the right shoulder. Moussa and her twin sister, Zhane, have matching tattoos ― an infinity symbol with their names.
A cause of death has not yet been released. A call to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Manassas – the performing the autopsy – was not returned on Monday.
Steward told HuffPost last week that her daughter was last seen after the mysterious Snapchat session. She said she was stepping out and would be right back, according to the mom.
About 8 p.m. that night, Zhane received an unusual text message from her sister saying she was heading to a party in Norfolk, Steward said. Norfolk is approximately 190 miles from Alexandria. The message was sent from Moussa’s phone, but it’s unclear whether it was Moussa who sent it, her mom said.
Later that night, Steward missed a call from Moussa’s phone. Return calls and texts went unanswered.
Steward was unavailable for comment Monday.
Police haven’t named any suspects or persons of interest.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Fairfax County Police Department at 703-691-2131, or the FBI at 202-278-2000. Moussa’s family created a Facebook group to share information in the case.