What Happened to Shaquita Bell?

When Jackie Winborne last said goodbye to her daughter, Shaquita Bell, she never imagined she would not see her again. For the past 11 years, she has been painfully longing to know what happened to her, and the passage of time has not diminished the...

Not long ago, Ms. Winborne was on television, and she noted the presence in the department of newly appointed Chief Cathy L. Lanier. "If I could only meet with Chief Lanier, it would be a blessing for our case. She seems to have such compassion," she said. Chief Lanier, who saw her on television, took the initiative to contact Ms. Winborne, and they had a face-to-face meeting on July 4, 2007. "What would you like to see done?" asked Lanier. "I'm here until we solve this case," and she hugged Ms. Winborne. "It just touched my heart," says Winborne. Since that time, Ms. Winborne now talks to Chief Lanier weekly. "Jackie has shown tremendous grace under the circumstances. As a mother, I admire her sheer determination to bring her daughter's killer to justice. More importantly, she's managed to come through it all without being angry or bitter. She is one of the finest human beings that I have ever met," says Lanier.

Following their meeting, Lanier reassembled a team and coordinated with the Prince George's County (MD) Police Department to return to the site where it was alleged Shaquita was buried. On July 28, 2007, officers, cadaver dogs, helicopters, and even a forensic anthropologist with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Doug Owsley, accompanied the crew in search of clues. They spent three days at the site in Ft. Washington, but left with no new discoveries. DCMPD Detective Jim Trainum and Project Director for the Violent Crime Case Review Project of the department arranged the search. "The problem with these cases is they fall through the cracks--they are not quite a homicide, but they are missing. These are 'no body' cases. The family themselves can do a lot to improve the response to these cases by becoming active and sharing concerns with others," says Trainum. Reflecting on the case of Shaquita Bell, he states, "They did a lot of investigative work in her case."

Ms. Winborne and her family continue to hope they will locate Shaquita's body and resolve what actually happened to her. The years pass, but time lingers in their desire to obtain answers. When asked how she manages to keep going, Winborne says, "I have my bad days. I pray. I read the Bible. Family makes a big difference but, of course, it doesn't make up for her. I'll never give up until I find out what happened to her. I couldn't give up."

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