Missing 12-year-old found dead after 4 years, NY cops say. Homicide investigation begins

The body of a 12-year-old boy, who was last seen leaving his home in Buffalo, New York, was found after nearly four years of searching for him, police said April 15.

Jaylen Griffin had been missing since Aug. 4, 2020, according to the Buffalo Police Department. Now his missing persons case has become a homicide investigation, Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said at an April 15 news conference.

On April 12, Jaylen’s body was found close to where he lived, about a 4.5 mile drive southeast of his house, inside a multi-unit residence in Buffalo on April 12, according to Gramaglia.

That morning, a person who wasn’t a resident and “had a reason to be in the home,” reported a dead body inside the home, Gramaglia said. The commissioner declined to specify where the discovery was made in the residence.

Dental records helped identify Jaylen, who Gramaglia said had been dead for a “significant amount of time” based on the condition of his body. Exactly when Jaylen died is unknown, according to Gramaglia, who said the medical examiner has “a lot of work to do.”

The medical examiner confirmed Jaylen’s death as a homicide and “will do a thorough and complete investigation which will include an autopsy. That could take months,” Erie County District Attorney Michael Keane said at the news conference.

When asked whether there’s any suspects or persons of interest, Gramaglia declined to answer.

Jaylen would have turned 16

Jaylen was discovered about one week before his 16th birthday, which would’ve been on April 22, according to Gramaglia, who offered his sympathies to Jaylen’s family.

“Unfortunately the result is not what we wanted but we did bring Jaylen home,” he added.

Kareema Morris, the founder of Bury The Violence, a nonprofit organization based in Buffalo that helps families search for missing loved ones, shared statements from Jaylen’s family at the news conference.

“They would like to thank everyone for their input and effort to diligently work and get him home,” Morris said.

Local Pastor Tim Newkirk, who helped search for Jaylen with his religious organization, GYC Ministries, commented on Jaylen’s body being found in an interview with WIVB-TV.

“I’m reminded by his mother Joann Ponzo who on her dying bed said don’t stop looking for my son,” Newkirk told the TV station.

Ponzo died at age 48 on Sept. 18, The Buffalo News reported.

A few months after Jaylen’s disappearance, his 18-year-old brother Jawaan Griffin was shot and killed near his home, according to the newspaper. The disappearance and death of Ponzo’s sons “emotionally devastated” her, and her health “rapidly” declined before she died.

Jaylen’s father Brian Griffin wants justice and has questions regarding the occupants of the residence where his son’s body was found, he told WIVB-TV.

“We all don’t know how long he’s been deceased, I’m sure there would’ve been some type of odor,” Griffin said.

When Gramaglia was asked if any tips came in from the residence’s neighbors, given that Jaylen’s body had likely been decomposing for a long time, he said no calls from neighbors were received since the boy went missing.

Since Jaylen has been located, his father said he’s gained some closure, according to WIVB-TV.

“Now that I have confirmation, I do feel a lot better,” Griffin told the TV station.

Law enforcement efforts to find Jaylen included searching various locations, such as homes and fields, and involved the use of cadaver dogs, different technologies and coordinated grid searches in and outside of Buffalo, according to Gramaglia. The FBI and state police took part in search efforts.

“We followed up on every tip that came in, including multiple psychics that called in tips ... and even based off of those tips we searched all of the areas that were included based on what those psychics said in an effort to leave no stone unturned,” Gramaglia said.

Now, Crime Stoppers WNY is offering a reward of up to $7,500 for information that leads to the arrest or charges for who is responsible for Jaylen’s homicide.

The latest Crime Stoppers WNY flyer issued for Jaylen.
The latest Crime Stoppers WNY flyer issued for Jaylen.

Gramaglia’s department is working to “bring the next level of closure” for Jaylen’s family, he said.

A memorial for Jaylen will be held on his birthday at Memorial Drive in Buffalo at 6 p.m. April 22, Morris said.

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