A teenage girl who disappeared for nearly a month told investigators she’d run away to escape horrific abuse at the hands of her mother, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.
Jashyah Moore, 14, detailed extreme instances of neglect and mistreatment by her mother, Jamie Moore, over a number of years. The complaint describes Moore’s abuse, alleging she stabbed her daughter in the shoulder with a steak knife, “causing a laceration that is still visible.”
Moore also allegedly sprayed bleach in her daughter’s eyes, pulled her braids out, and would hit her with several objects, including a frying pan. She would also strike her daughter with her hands, and put her knees on Jashyah’s neck and back, “causing her to struggle to breathe,” according to the complaint.
The 14-year-old was allegedly “forced to cook” for herself and her younger brother, or else neither would eat that day. Her mother is also accused of “educational neglect,” keeping the girl from attending or enrolling in classes. Instead, the complaint alleges, Moore sent Jashyah out to panhandle, a claim the East Orange police said they have corroborated.
On Oct. 14, Jashyah vanished from an East Orange deli. Moore reported her disappearance, and for the next four weeks appeared every inch the distraught mother. “I haven’t slept, I haven’t ate,” she told NBC New York on Nov. 9. Moore said she was convinced Jashyah had been abducted. “Imagine if it was your child missing, how would you feel?”
Under pressure from national media attention, authorities undertook a massive search effort. East Orange police, New Jersey state police, and the FBI canvassed neighborhoods and posted fliers with help from volunteers. A reward of up to $20,000 was offered for information leading to the girl.
And then the 14-year-old was spotted in Harlem on Thursday night. Jashyah, who’d cut off her braids to avoid being recognized, initially denied who she was to officers. She eventually acknowledged her identity, saying she’d been staying at a women’s shelter in Brooklyn.
“The young lady appears to have run away, and didn’t want to make herself known to anybody where she was,” Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens III said on Friday, just prior to an announcement of Moore’s arrest. “She seemed to be more so at ease where she was.”
Jashyah told police that on Oct. 14 her mother assaulted her after she returned from the deli without the family’s food benefits card. According to the complaint, Moore cursed her, grabbing her by the neck and scratching her. Moore then allegedly sent her daughter back to the deli, saying not to come home without the card.
“The victim stated that she left and knew she could not go back home because her mom would beat her and leave her all bruised up,” the complaint alleges.
At a press conference on Nov. 5, Moore remembered a far different story. “So I said, ‘Baby, backtrack your steps, because you lost it before and found it,’” she tearfully recounted. “‘So it’s probably right outside or where you went in your pocket, it probably fell out.’ So she did. She left, she backtracked her steps. That was the last time I saw her.”
Moore, who turned 40 on Monday, remains in the Essex County Correctional Facility after her arrest on two counts of child endangerment. She is accused of physical abuse and neglect.
Volunteers who helped coordinate search efforts expressed relief the girl was safe but said they had been deceived, searching alongside Moore. “We feel like we was shafted, bamboozled, misled,” one volunteer, Tony Olajuwon, told NBC New York.
Both Jashyah and her 3-year-old brother have been removed from Moore’s custody and placed with New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
Moore’s detention hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.