On February 9, Kansas City police identified a body found buried in a courtyard in the 5600 block of Paloma Avenue as that of 52-year-old Sirrena Truitt. His remains were discovered in October, after being dug up by the owner’s dog. It is unclear how long she has been buried and her case is being investigated as a homicide.
While police only this month publicly confirmed that the deceased woman found in the yard was Truitt, her family had known for months. They had spent the summer looking for the mother of six.
After a body was found in late October, police contacted them and said the remains had identifying characteristics that could be Truitt’s. It was the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office that officially broke the news to the family.
“’I brought it here right on my table. She died,’” Alois Johnson, Truitt’s niece, recalls being told in that conversation.
The discovery of Truitt’s body in October occurred around the same time that a young black woman escaped 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, the families have raised questions about the process of filing missing persons reports with the Kansas City Police Department. They claim it is difficult and full of roadblocks.
Truitt’s family says it was their experience.
“Our main concern is that people are not allowed to file police reports. They sat on their hands until Excelsior Springs,” said David Finnell, half-brother to Truitt.
“We know where she is, so we can put her to rest at some point,” Finnell said of Sirrena. “But there are other people who need help here.”
The Disappearance of Truitt
In June 2022, Johnson began hearing rumors that his aunt had been murdered. Prior to 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 the coroner’s office — looking for answers. Eventually he 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 out for Truitt’s arrest on drug charges. And, Johnson said, the officer revealed that two other people associated with his aunt had since been killed.
Johnson’s family has been put in touch with a detective to handle the missing person case. From there, they said, things took a turn for the worse.
According to the family, the detective, Nathan Kinate, was dismissive of Johnson’s concerns about his aunt.
“He tried to make it look like she wasn’t missing,” she said.
“He asked, ‘Why do you care?'” Johnson said. “Because she is my family. Just because she’s on drugs and she has a criminal record, that doesn’t mean she’s not a person and we don’t care.
Johnson later called back for updates, which he said was another futile attempt. He says the officer told his police that he wouldn’t be looking for Truitt.
“He said Kansas City is too big for us to look for one person.”
After Johnson’s repartee, Finnell, a Blue Springs resident, got on the phone with the lead detective. He said his experience of him was similar to Johnson’s.
“We got into it because she said she was on drugs. Is it ‘because she interests you?’ He had nothing good to say about her. She just yelled at her and it got ugly,” she said. “All she did on the phone call was track down Sirrena.”
Kinate, the detective, referred a Beacon reporter to the KCPD’s media unit. In an email response, police spokesman Sgt. Jacob Becchina confirmed that Finnell had spoken to a detective.
“We don’t have any specific details of this conversation, other than what happened,” Becchina said in an email.
He continued: “Mr. Finnell expressed frustration and was proactively contacted by the detective’s supervisor. They talked about her frustration and she listened to her concerns and they had a productive discussion. She also conveyed her options to her in terms of citizen complaints and they have not been in touch since.
Finnell was unable to obtain a case number into his half-sister’s disappearance during this interaction, and he claims officers considered it a rumor before badmouthing her.
“Okay, she has problems,” he said. “That doesn’t mean she should be killed and thrown in a hole for a dog to find.”
Missing person report
After the family’s interaction with police in the summer, they didn’t receive updates on Truitt’s case until a body was found in late October. At the time, police contacted a relative to inform them of the discovery and said identifying marks on the dentures suggested the deceased woman may have been Truitt. Later in the month, Johnson received a call from the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Truitt’s family and police disagree as to whether an official missing person report was ever filed. Johnson said the coroner told her she 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 by mistake” and “doesn’t match a missing persons investigation.
“Investigators were contacted in June by some of her family members from out of town who were concerned for her well-being because they hadn’t heard from her for some time,” Becchina said. “The information the family passed on to investigators at the time did not met the criteria for a missing person report.”
Although the information provided by the family did not meet the criteria for a Missouri statutes report, police said investigators conducted an investigative follow-up on the family’s concerns.
Their investigation included a residency check at the last known address, searching public databases of associates and addresses or arrests, and contacting other states to verify possible addresses provided in those search results, Becchina said.
When Johnson got the coroner’s call about his aunt’s death, he discovered another shocking piece of news: Truitt’s case had been closed months earlier.
“He was like, ‘Well, they shut it down.’ I’m like, ‘Closed?’” he recalled.
Family members said they were never contacted regarding the closure of Truitt’s case.
“I wish he had said something because he didn’t say anything, that he was closing the case,” Johnson said. “We think our case is still open.”
According to Becchina, “investigators routinely stay in touch with family members and receive inquiries from family members depending on the circumstances of the case.”
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 coroner.
The roadblocks and confusion that have marked her family’s attempts to work with the police to find her highlight an ongoing problem in Kansas City regarding missing persons.
Residents continue to reject the notion that if a report has not been filed, a person is essentially not considered missing. The criteria for submitting a report are too strict, they say.
“They say there are strict standards for filing reports. This is an apology and pointing fingers at the family,” Finnell said.
Finnell summed up the confusion experienced by the family.
“Before it was all ‘hearsay and rumours’, now it’s ‘nobody press charges’, but the police wouldn’t let them,” he said.
In addition to several family members, several of Truitt’s friends have attempted to press charges on her, to no avail, Finnell said.
Truitt’s murder investigation is ongoing, according to KCPD. His family, who have not yet had contact with the police since the summer, are still looking for answers and responsibilities.
“I want to know what happened, who did it, and I want these people to pay for it,” Johnson said.
“I want at least that detective held accountable for that, too. Because he didn’t help us. Maybe we wouldn’t find her alive, but maybe we would find her sooner or later. And maybe we could have caught this person earlier too.
This story was originally published by the Kansas City Beacon, a fellow member of the KC Media Collective.