Saniyya Dennis, a 19-year-old honor student at Buffalo State College in New York has been missing since April, but her family is not resigned to giving up on finding her and bringing her home.
In early May Erie County District Attorney John Flynn announced his office believed Saniyya died of apparent suicide near Niagara Falls after reviewing text exchanges phone records, surveillance footage and interviewing friends she reportedly contacted who said she expressed thoughts of self-harm.
“An exhaustive search and review of the evidence has been done and it appears that this poor girl took her own life,” Flynn told reporters. “Without a body, without an autopsy being done, we’re never going to definitively know. All I can do is present you with what I have and what I presented … everything that I had … to her parents.”
However Saniyya’s family refuses to give up their fight and challenge the evidence and claims Flynn made during his announcement.
“Upon careful review and consideration of the allegations presented by District Attorney Flynn regarding the issues surrounding the disappearance of Saniyya Dennis, we respectfully disagree with his presentation,” the family wrote in a statement published by New York Amsterdam News, “and were shocked by his assertion that he shared information with our family regarding her disappearance and his findings of suicide.”
The family says they have yet to review footage of Saniyya’s leaving her college campus and instead were shown a photo still. They also claim that local businesses near Niagara Falls have been unsupportive in releasing their surveillance footage in order for investigators to track Saniyya’s steps.
Family advocate, Sherri Jefferson, the executive director of the African American Juvenile Justice Project, told the AmNews the family believes foul play could be at hand in the area after the murder of another young Black woman and the subsequent disappearance of a Black teen who has been missing since January. There have also been several instances of human trafficking reported. Community members continue to host search parties in hopes that it will lead to Saniyya’s discovery.
Dennis’ father, Harlem-born rapper 40 Cal previously offered a $10,000 reward for anyone who provided information leading to Saniyya’s return.