CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. - Sylesta Seabrum took pride in the fact that she’d never lost a child in her care.
When her adult daughter was murdered in 2006, Seabrum became the legal guardian of her children, including her granddaughter, Shanequa Sullivan, who had autism.
Seabrum was her protector. But nothing could protect Sullivan on Feb. 4, the day she disappeared.
Sullivan’s badly decomposed body was pulled from the Yellow River over the weekend, but there’s no closure for the family.
“The search ain’t over for me,” Seabrum said. ”I need the truth.”
Sullivan was 23 years old, 4 feet 11 inches tall and 88 pounds, according to her grandmother. She also had the mind of a fifth grader.
“She was a little girl in so many ways,” Seabrum told Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Nicole Carr.
On the day she disappeared, Seabrum says Sullivan waved goodbye in their Forest Park home and headed to the MARTA station.
For the past year, she’d been allowed a newfound independence.
She loved social media, against her grandmother’s constant warnings about "stranger danger." And Sullivan now had the ability to ride the train and go to work for a cleaning service at the airport.
The family says MARTA surveillance shows every part of her trip that day.
“They saw her coming to work,” said Seabrum, who viewed the footage. “They saw her at 3:37 (p.m.) tapping her card. It read $0.00. I don’t know why she didn’t use the $5 (to refill her card).”
“They saw her walking away from the gate. Thought she would load up her card, but she kept walking,” Seabrum said.
But investigators, they said, indicated the airport did not have surveillance of Sullivan.
There was no sign of her for weeks.
It was abnormal for a woman of her mental capacity, who was a person of habit and a person who physically froze in the face of uncertainty, her grandmother said.
During the monthlong search, Seabrum says the family passed out thousands of fliers. Some of the response was a nightmare.
“I got wicked phone calls,” Seabrum told Carr. “I got crazy phone calls. She’s tied up in the basement. Her body’s in the woods.”
Over the weekend, Seabrum received a phone call from Newton County investigators.
Pat Campbell Jr., a local fisherman, had found Sullivan’s body more than 40 miles away in the Yellow River.
“I motored over and I saw the heel of the person and I initially thought it was a mannequin,” Campbell said.
“The coroner estimated, probably, she’d been in the water 30 days or more,” Seabrum said. “She was missing one month and six days. Now you do the math.”
Investigators are still working to figure out a cause of death.
Sullivan will be laid to rest next to her mother Monday.
She was so badly decomposed that the family never viewed her body.
Before the service, Seabrum plans to meet Campbell to thank him for finding her granddaughter.
But she can’t help but shake the feeling that the key to solving her granddaughter’s case is in Clayton County.
“Everything goes back to the airport,” Seabrum said. “I feel it in my bones. I feel it in my heart. Somebody around there knows something.”
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