Although African Americans make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population, we account for 33 percent of the missing in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s database. Cases involving African Americans also tend to receive less media coverage than missing Whites, with missing men of color getting even less attention.
NewsOne has partnered with the Black and Missing Foundation to focus on the crisis of missing African Americans.
To be a part of the solution, NewsOne will profile a missing person weekly and provide tips about how to keep your loved ones safe and what to do if someone goes missing.
The body of missing teacher Bianca Tanner (pictured) was found in a heavily wooded area of Charlotte Thursday and police have charged her boyfriend Angelo Grayson Smith Jr. (pictured at right below) with her murder.
Smith originally told police that Tanner was intoxicated when she stormed out of the apartment they shared, after he received a text message on his phone that led to an argument. But that version of events immediately came under suspicion because Tanner left her 3-year-old son, her car, and prescription medications behind.
Afterward, Tanner’s son bravely told police that his mother was allegedly the victim of domestic violence at the hands of Smith.
“Mommy got a spanking with the belt. Angelo kicked mommy’s butt and made her cry,” the boy told police according to a search warrant in the case. “Angelo is mean to mommy and hurt mommy in the face.”
According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, a “cooperating witness” led them to the spot where Tanner’s body was found.
It’s unclear if Smith confessed to the murder as NBC Charlotte has reported, but the Charlotte Observer reports Smith told Tanner’s family “I’m sorry” as he was being taken to jail.
Smith left Charlotte for Chicago once he became a person of interest in the case. His lawyer said he feared for his safety and wanted to be closer to family. But police continued to interview Smith’s friends in Charlotte and even interviewed people that he spoke with in Chicago. Police believed the case was an instance of domestic violence after neighbors heard a loud argument coming from Smith and Tanner’s apartment followed by a loud thud and then silence.
“We had a cooperating witness that actually provided the information that brought us to this location as well as additional information to establish the probable cause that we needed in order to place Mr. Smith under arrest,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe told NBC Charlotte.
WSOC.TV reported that it was one of Smith’s friends that led police to Tanner’s remains and that Smith allegedly confessed after the teacher’s body was recovered.
Smith was briefly jailed in Chicago, when Charlotte Police filed a delinquency of a minor charge against him after he left Tanner’s 3-year-old son alone. Smith claimed it was to go look for Tanner at 2 a.m. Smith was released on $20,000 bail only to be rearrested hours later when Tanner’s body was found.
Tanner’s family, who had remained hopeful that she would be found alive, was devastated by the news.
“We didn’t expect her to be found dead,” said Tanner’s aunt Faye Scarborough. “That baby is not going to ever know his mama.”
The family also released a statement:
“Thank you all for your continued prayers and support. The family asks for privacy as they try to deal with this senseless tragedy. GOD is a healer and they stand firm in their beliefs that GOD will help them overcome this too!” the family wrote.
Tanner had recently moved to Charlotte from Greensboro to be with Smith and was slated to begin a new teaching job at a program that improved educational outcomes for kids at West Charlotte High School and the eight middle schools that feed students there. Tanner was described by her former students as a loving and hard-working teacher who often went above and beyond for her students. She was also a mentor who led the modeling club at the school, teaching children how to carry themselves with confidence.
Police have been looking for her since June 8. What started as a missing persons case quickly turned into a homicide investigation after police discovered that Tanner and Smith’s relationship contained domestic violence.
Black women are more likely to be killed in domestic violence situations than other women, according to the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community at the University of Minnesota. Although Black women make up just 8 percent of the population, in 2005 they accounted for 22 percent of intimate partner homicides and 29 percent of all female victims of intimate partner homicide. Intimate partner homicide is the leading cause of death for Black women between the ages of 15 and 25.
According to a 2013 report from the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., in 2011, 492 Black females were murdered by males at a rate of 2.61 per 100,000, compared to a rate of 0.99 per 100,000 for White females. Black women are often killed in the midst of an argument by their intimate partners. Approximately 87 percent of homicide cases involving Black women were unrelated to the commission of another felony crime.
“The sad reality is that women are nearly always murdered by someone they know,” Violence Policy Center Legislative Director Kristen Rand said in a statement released with the study. “Already, many elected officials and community leaders are working tirelessly to reduce the toll of domestic violence. Yet despite these efforts, the numbers remain unacceptably high. We need new policies in place from local communities to the federal government to protect women from harm.”
Natalie Wilson, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, said Black women need to know that help is available to them if they find themselves in an abusive relationship. Many intimate partner homicides occur as the woman is trying to extract herself from the relationship so it is a dangerous time where the help of experts is in order.
“Leaving an abusive relationship is not easy. Do not suffer in silence,” Wilson told NewsOne in a direct appeal to abused women in an interview. “You are not alone during this difficult time. We encourage you to find resources in your area. You and your children deserve a safe and happy life.”