© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Sirrena Truitt's family is still seeking justice for her death — and accountability from KCPD

David Finnell, Sirrena Truitt’s stepbrother, was informed that her body was at the Jackson County medical examiner’s office in Kansas City months after he began searching for her.
Chase Castor
Kansas City Beacon
David Finnell, Sirrena Truitt’s stepbrother, was informed that her body was at the Jackson County medical examiner’s office in Kansas City months after he began searching for her.

The family of a missing Black woman began searching for her in June, but say that Kansas City Police officers were dismissive of their concerns. Months later, her body was found buried in a backyard, but police have yet to offer any updates to the investigation.

On Feb. 9, Kansas City police identified a body found buried in a backyard in the 5600 block of Paloma Avenue as that of 52-year-old Sirrena Truitt. Her remains were discovered back in October, after being dug up by the property owner’s dog. It is unclear how long she had been buried, and her case is being investigated as a homicide.

While police only this month confirmed publicly that the deceased woman found in the backyard was Truitt, her family has known that for months. They had spent the summer searching for the mother of six.

After a body was found in late October, police contacted them and said the remains had identifying features that could be Truitt’s. It was the Jackson County medical examiner’s office that broke the news officially to the family.

“‘I got her here right on my table. She’s dead,’” Alois Johnson, Truitt’s niece, recalls being told in that conversation.

The discovery of Truitt’s body in October happened around the same time a young Black woman escaped from captivity in Excelsior Springs after being abducted from Kansas City, bringing national attention to the issue of missing Black women in this region.

Since then, families have raised questions about the process of filing missing-person reports with the Kansas City Police Department. They contend it is difficult and full of roadblocks.

Truitt’s family says that has been their experience.

“Our main concern is that people aren’t allowed to file police reports. They have been sitting on their hands until Excelsior Springs,” said David Finnell, Truitt’s stepbrother.

“We know where she is, so at some point we can put her to rest,” Finnell said of Sirrena. “But there’s other people that need some help here.”

Truitt’s disappearance

In June 2022, Johnson began hearing about rumors that her aunt had been murdered. Before this, the family hadn’t heard from Truitt since April. Johnson, who lives in Denver, began calling everyone she could think of — family, friends and even coroners’ offices — in search of answers. Eventually she contacted the Kansas City Police Department.

When she did, an officer advised her to fill out a missing-person report, she said. The officer noted that there was a warrant for Truitt’s arrest on drug charges. And, Johnson said, the officer disclosed that two other people associated with her aunt had since been murdered.

Johnson’s family was put in contact with a detective to handle their missing-person case. From there, they said, things went south.

According to the family, the detective, Nathan Kinate, was dismissive of Johnson’s concerns regarding her aunt.

“He tried to make it seem like she’s not missing,” she said.

“He asked, ‘Why do you care?’” Johnson said. “Because she’s my family. Just because she’s on drugs and has a criminal history, that doesn’t mean she’s not a person and that we don’t care.”

Johnson later called back for updates, which she said was another futile endeavor. She says the officer told her police would not be searching for Truitt.

“He said Kansas City is too big for us to look for one person.”

After Johnson’s back and forth, Finnell, a Blue Springs resident, spoke with the lead detective over the phone. He said his experience was similar to Johnson’s.

“We got into it because he said she was on drugs. And ‘why do you care?’ He had nothing good to say about her. Just yelled at me and it got ugly,” he said. “All he did on the phone call was to run Sirrena down.”

Kinate, the detective, referred a Beacon reporter to the KCPD media unit. In an email response, police spokesman Sgt. Jacob Becchina confirmed that Finnell had spoken to a detective.

“We do not have any specific details of this conversation, other than it happened,” Becchina said in an email.

He continued: “Mr. Finnell expressed frustration and was proactively contacted by the Detective’s supervisor. They spoke about his frustration, and she heard his concerns and they had a productive discussion. She also relayed his options in terms of citizen complaints and they have not been in contact again.”

Finnell was not able to obtain a case number about his stepsister’s disappearance during this interaction, and maintains that officers wrote it off as a rumor before speaking ill of her.

“Ok, she’s got issues,” he said. “That doesn’t mean she should be killed and thrown in a hole for a dog to find her.”

Missing person’s report

After the family’s interaction with police in the summer, they heard no updates on Truitt’s case until after a body was found in late October. At that time, police contacted a relative to tell them about the discovery and said identifying marks on dentures suggested the deceased woman could be Truitt. Later in the month, Johnson received a call from the Jackson County medical examiner’s office.

Truitt’s family and police are at odds over whether an official missing-person report was ever filed. Johnson said the coroner told her he had a case number for Truitt’s disappearance. She said family members also had the case number.

But Becchina said the report with the case number was “generated in error” and it “does not correspond to a missing persons investigation.

Alois Johnson, Truitt’s niece, created a flyer for her aunt after her family filed a report on her disappearance.
Alois Johnson
Alois Johnson, Truitt’s niece, created a flyer for her aunt after her family filed a report on her disappearance.

Detectives were contacted back in June by some of her family from out of town who were concerned for her well-being because they had not heard from her for some time,” Becchina said. “Information that family relayed to detectives at that time did not meet the criteria for a missing person report.”

Though the information provided by the family did not meet the Missouri statutes’ criteria for a report, police said that detectives conducted investigative follow-up on the family’s concerns.

Their investigation included a residence check at the last known address, searching through public databases for associates and addresses or arrests, and reaching out to other states to check for possible addresses given in those search results, Becchina said.

When Johnson received the call from the medical examiner about her aunt’s death, she discovered other shocking news: Truitt’s case had been closed months before.

“He was like, ‘Well, they closed it.’ I’m like, ‘Closed it?’” she recalled.

Family members said they were never contacted regarding the closing of Truitt’s case.

“I wish he would have said something because he didn’t say anything, that he was closing the case,” Johnson said. “We’re thinking our case is still open.”

According to Becchina, “detectives routinely stay in touch with family members and receive inquiries from family members depending on the circumstances of the case.”

What’s next?

It has been eight months since Truitt’s family first became concerned about her disappearance and four months since her identity was confirmed by the medical examiner.

The roadblocks and confusion that have marked her family’s attempts to work with police to find her highlight an ongoing issue in Kansas City regarding missing persons.

Residents continue to push back against the notion that if a report hasn’t been filed, a person essentially isn’t considered missing. The criteria for filing a report are too stringent, they say.

“They’re saying there’s strict standards to file reports. This is an excuse and pointing the finger at the family,” said Finnell.

Finnell summed up the confusion the family experienced.

“First it was all ‘hearsay and rumors,’ now it’s ‘no one files a report,’ but the police wouldn’t let them,” he said.

In addition to several family members, many of Truitt’s friends attempted to file reports on her, to no avail, Finnell said.

Truitt’s homicide investigation is ongoing, according to KCPD.

While Finnell and Johnson told the Beacon they have had no contact with police since October, a KCPD spokesman said homicide investigators had three separate contacts with “next of kin” in November, December and February. Finnell and Johnson said they were unaware of those contacts and don’t know who investigators had called.

“I want to know what happened, who did this, and I want these people to pay for this,” said Johnson.

“I want that detective to at least be held accountable for this too. Because he didn’t help us. We might not have found her alive but maybe we would have found her sooner than later. And maybe we could have caught this person sooner as well.”

This story was originally published by the Kansas City Beacon, a fellow member of the KC Media Collective.

Corrected: March 7, 2023 at 4:50 PM CST
This story has been updated to include information from KCPD that homicide detectives reached out to a "next of kin" with information about Sirrena Truitt’s case in November, December and February.
Mili Mansaray is the housing and labor reporter at The Kansas City Beacon. Previously, she was a freelance reporter and Summer 2020 intern.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.