DENVER (KDVR) — A local family is searching for answers after their 16-year-old loved one was found dead by a dumpster in Green Valley Ranch.
The mother and two sisters of Tayanna Manuel spoke about who she was and the frustration surrounding the initial stages of the investigation. They believe the investigation is connected to a shooting from Friday night involving someone Manuel knew.
“She was just one of those people when you seen her, you fell in love with her,” Manuel’s mother Pamela said.
Manuel’s sister Nyrobi added: “She’s so giving, her smile and her laugh and her sense of humor brightens up anyone’s day.”
Her other sister, Tess said, “She was so comforting, so sweet. If she had anything going on in her life, she wouldn’t bring that onto anybody else.”
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They all recalled the vibrant and vivacious soul that was “Tay Tay,” a nickname she’d often go by. Someone found her body by a dumpster on Monday in the Green Valley Ranch neighborhood.
The family told FOX31 via zoom it spent Christmas looking for her, launching their own search party.
“Her gifts will be the only thing under the Christmas tree this year,” Tess said.
Not far from where her body was found is where the family believes things actually started last week. They say Manuel was with her boyfriend, who was shot on Friday in the 4600 block of Kittredge. DPD tweeted about this incident Friday night, but has yet to update the tweet as of Monday night.
“He was found, but she wasn’t. So we were under the impression she was missing,” Nyrobi said.
They filed a report Saturday and began searching that area and found the car, which police are now searching for, with blood inside. Police believe that vehicle is connected with Manuel’s death. But this comes as cold comfort for the family who says, they recognized that car.
“We know about the vehicle because we found it before the police. We were on all of this before the police were, and then the suspect pulled up while we’re waiting for the police to come and he took the car,” Nyrobi said.
One of the sisters even got a call Friday night not long after that shooting, from someone asking about Manuel.
Police have not confirmed if Friday’s shooting is connected with Monday’s discovery.
“I’m going to just say that the police officers did not believe for these two stories to be connected to each other,” Pamela said.
The family turned to an out-of-state organization for help after it said police didn’t prioritize the complaint. It’s called the Dock Ellis Foundation, named after the famed baseball player.
The foundation plastered Manuel’s name and face everywhere because it wanted to help the family get answers.
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We spoke with the co-founder and a member of the Dock Ellis Foundation.
“We’re trying to get the message out that in our communities and the minority communities, for whatever reason that we’re still doing our own research on, is to try to find out why it is when these type of situations happen in the minority communities, it’s kind of like, it’s pushed aside,” foundation’s COO Hjordis Ellis said.
Tanya Frazier, the foundation’s chief strategist, said the goal is to bring the missing and human sex trafficking victims home.
“It’s amazing to know that we are reaching these communities and everyone, you know, via social media,” Frazier said.
The foundation said it’s saddened to hear how this story ended.