Episode 119: Keeshae Jacobs

June 3, 2024

When a young woman disappears in the dark of night, her mother embarks on a crusade to find the truth. What happened to Keeshae Jacobs?

Episode Media
Keeshae Eunique Jacobs (Times Dispatch)
Keeshae Jacobs (Crime Insider)
Toni and Keeshae Jacobs (Elite Daily)
Deavon Jacobs (WRIC)
Otis Lee Tucker (Florida Department of Corrections)
Episode Sources
Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Bite-Sized Crime. This week I’m bringing you a case that I mentioned in last week’s episode, one that has recently come back into the headlines. This episode discusses sensitive topics, so listener discretion is advised.

Keeshae E’Unique Jacobs grew up in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia. She and her older brother Deavon were raised by their mother Toni, an army veteran and single mom who was dedicated to her children and their education. In their teenage years, Keeshae and Deavon were involved in a variety of sports, and Toni coached Keeshae’s cheerleading squad. The small family was extremely close. They shared everything, relying on each other during good times and bad.

After graduating from high school, Keeshae decided to stay at home until she figured out what she wanted to do with her life. She worked various jobs and tucked away money for the future. She and her mom hung out during their free time, shopping at the mall or watching scary movies on the couch. When they weren’t together, they were calling and texting all day long. Toni told Dateline that Keeshae was a homebody; she didn’t need a lot to keep her entertained. “She wasn’t one to ask me for money. She was happy with her life. She was always a person who stayed home. She really wasn’t one to go out to the clubs.”

In the fall of 2016, Keeshae – now 21 years old – was in a time of transition. She had recently quit her position at a local thrift store and was looking for something more challenging. Plus, she and her boyfriend had been arguing more and more lately, and Keeshae was feeling frustrated with the relationship. On the evening of Monday, September 26th, Keeshae told her mom that she was going to spend the night with a friend. She had spent the whole day looking at job listings online and dealing with yet another fight with her boyfriend, and she needed a change of scenery. She promised Toni that she would text her when she got to her friend’s house and that she would be back in the morning to make breakfast.

Not wanting to pry, Toni didn’t ask her daughter where she was going or which friend she was seeing. Keeshae was an adult, and Toni wanted to respect her privacy. Around 11pm, Keeshae texted Toni, saying she had arrived safely. They exchanged ‘I love yous’ and Toni went to bed.

But when Toni awoke the next morning, Keeshae wasn’t there. Maybe she had just slept in and would be home later in the day. Toni headed to work, figuring that Keeshae would call her during her lunch break like usual, but her phone didn’t ring all day. Getting worried, Toni began calling Keeshae’s phone over and over again, but every call went straight to voicemail. This was especially odd. Keeshae always kept her phone charged; even if it had died, she would have borrowed someone else’s phone to send a message.

After multiple unanswered calls, Toni reached out to her son, who was at the house. Deavon said he hadn’t heard from Keeshae either, and there weren’t any signs indicating she had come home and then left again. When Toni got home from work that evening, Keeshae still hadn’t returned, and there were no messages. Toni called every one of Keeshae’s friends she could, but none of them had seen or heard from her since the day before. They promised they would call around and let her know if they found out anything.

Toni told Dateline that she tried to sleep that night but was too consumed with worry for her daughter. Around 1am, after tossing and turning for hours, she decided she had to do something. “I went to her friends’ houses, knocked on their doors, and asked if they knew where Keeshae was. Nobody knew. So I drove straight to the police precinct and reported her missing.”

Unfortunately, the police didn’t seem as worried as Toni was. She told Elite Daily, “It took the police a day before they contacted me after I filed the report. I don’t think they really even took it seriously at first because she was 21. They were like, ‘How do you know she didn’t run away?’”

But Toni knew her daughter. Keeshae would never disappear like this. She told WTVR, “This is not my daughter. My daughter would do whatever she could to make sure she called me. She would use any means necessary to try to get in contact with me and let me know where she’s at.”

The Richmond Police Department opened an investigation, sending out a description of Keeshae to local media and asking the public to call in with any tips. But they still didn’t believe there was anything suspicious about her disappearance. Keeshae would likely turn up in a few days.

Toni wasn’t going to wait around – she was hard at work searching for her daughter. Keeshae’s cell phone was still going straight to voicemail, and their joint bank account hadn’t been touched. Something was very wrong. Toni gathered a group of family and friends to search the neighborhood. For hours they walked, knocking on doors and handing out flyers. But no one recalled seeing Keeshae after Monday evening.

Feeling defeated, Toni headed home. How could it be that her sweet, quiet daughter had vanished into thin air? Then, there was a knock at her door. On the other side stood three of Keeshae’s friends. They told Toni that they might know where Keeshae went.

According to the friends, they had picked up Keeshae from her house on Monday night and had driven her across the river to the Church Hill neighborhood in east Richmond. Keeshae had said she was going to meet a girlfriend and asked them to drop her off at a house on East Broad Street near Chimborazo Park. Keeshae’s friend DeMarcus told Toni that he got a text from their mutual friend confirming that she would meet Keeshae at the house, so when he dropped Keeshae off, he assumed everything was fine. But when Keeshae went missing, her friends got worried. They went back to the house to see if she was still there, but she wasn’t. They knew they had to tell Toni.

Toni had DeMarcus take her to the house in Church Hill where he had dropped Keeshae off. She marched up the steps of the red brick row house and knocked on the door. The man who answered said his name was Otis.

Otis told Toni that he knew Keeshae through a mutual friend. He said that Keeshae had come over on Monday around 5pm and that she and the friend had left together. But Toni knew this wasn’t true. She had talked to Keeshae throughout the day on Monday and knew her daughter had been at home until nearly midnight. When she challenged Otis’ timeline, he quickly adjusted his story. He said that she had actually come by later that night and had called for a ride to pick her up. He hadn’t seen her after that. Again, every time Toni questioned him, his story changed.

Toni knew that Otis was lying to her. Standing on the front steps, she called the Richmond Police Department and told them what she had learned. Within minutes, patrol cars pulled up to the red brick house and several officers went inside. When they came back out, they told Toni that Keeshae wasn’t there. They did notice a few small droplets of blood in the home, but it wasn’t enough to get a warrant, and it certainly wasn’t enough to make an arrest. The officers questioned Otis, but he maintained that Keeshae had only been at his house for a short time on Monday night and he hadn’t seen her at all after that.

Investigators followed up with Keeshae’s friends, including the friend she was supposed to spend the night with on Monday. But the woman said that she never met up with Keeshae and never sent DeMarcus a text message like he claimed. Police have never made a public statement about this particular situation, but Toni has been clear about her feelings. She told Dateline that didn’t trust this friend at all. “It was just something about the girl. I can’t even put my finger on it, but I didn’t think she was a good friend to Keeshae… I did not care for her.”

Toni didn’t trust this guy Otis either. He definitely knew more than he was saying. Toni decided to focus her attention on his neighborhood. She gathered her friends and family again and began papering Church Hill with flyers, making sure that no one could pass by without seeing Keeshae’s face. On October 2, six days after Keeshae disappeared, they held a vigil in Chimborazo Park, a block from where she was last seen. Community members wore blue – Keeshae’s favorite color – and handed out flyers to anyone who passed by. Her grandmother Annie told WTVR that they were looking for any information that might help them find Keeshae. “Give us a lead on something. Just to let us know that she’s safe and she’s sound. Just let us know something.”

As Toni combed the Church Hill neighborhood for clues, she kept hearing things about Otis, things that disturbed her. She told Dateline that during one search, someone handed her a phone. The woman on the other end told Toni a horrifying story: just days earlier, Otis had beaten her and held her captive. The woman had managed to escape and call the police, and Otis was now facing charges for assault.

Toni told Dateline that this revelation shook her to her core. “I broke down, because he probably did the same thing to [Keeshae]… That was my worst nightmare, hearing that. I’m already dealing with my daughter being missing… the fact that the last person to see her has done this to somebody else. Do I believe he may have something to do with Keeshae’s disappearance? Yes.”

But even with this information about Otis, investigators didn’t have enough to connect him to Keeshae. Instead, they continued their search. They brought bloodhounds to Chimborazo Park and searched the area with surveillance planes. A neighbor told WTVR that she had seen a police van parked nearby several times and that police had been going in and out of the home on East Broad Street. Investigators followed up on every lead, including several potential sightings of Keeshae in neighboring communities. But soon, the leads dried up, and Keeshae’s family was left to wonder what had happened. They struggled every day with not knowing. Toni told WTVR, “All I want to do is hear her voice and know she’s OK, but my fear is that she’s not gonna come home and I’m not gonna tell her I love her again.”

In January of 2017, just three months after Keeshae disappeared, Toni received devastating news: her son Deavon had been killed.

According to police reports, officers were called to the scene of a shooting at a Motel 6 just before 11pm on January 8th. There, they found the body of 25-year-old Deavon Jacobs, dead from two gunshot wounds. The next day, 39-year-old James Henshaw was arrested and charged with murder. Henshaw claimed he had shot Deavon in self-defense – they had been arguing over a rental car when Deavon suddenly attacked him and threatened to throw him over the second-floor balcony. Henshaw had fired his gun twice, once in Deavon’s abdomen and once in his face, killing him instantly. Henshaw was convicted of second-degree murder, but his conviction was overturned when it was discovered that the prosecution had misled jurors about the forensic evidence. Ultimately, Henshaw pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Toni was absolutely heartbroken over the loss of her only son, especially coming on the heels of her daughter’s disappearance. She told WRIC, “I’ll never get to tell my son I love him again and I’ll never get to hear it again. I’m just praying Keeshae comes home so I can tell her I love her.”

As the months passed, Toni continued to push forward. She told Elite Daily that she couldn’t give up until every avenue was explored. “To be honest, I don’t think I have even fully grieved for my son because I still have to be strong for my daughter… I can’t even explain to you how I feel not being able to talk to him and to go through this by myself until his sister comes home.”

In April of 2017, Toni partnered with the Richmond Police Department and the city mayor to create the first Missing Persons Day Rally in Richmond. She told WWBT that she wanted to bring together families who were experiencing the same pain she was going through and let them know they weren’t alone. “I don’t want anybody to have that feeling that they’re doing this alone because they’re not. There’s other people out there. We can do this together and support each other… and if I encourage someone else to go a little further to get these kids home, then I’m okay.”

In November of 2017, Richmond Police released a statement to the public saying that they believed Keeshae’s disappearance was the result of foul play. Detective William Thompson with the Major Crimes Division said, “We hope that publicizing our belief that she was met with foul play might prompt others to come forward with information that will help solve this case.”

Toni expressed her gratitude for the announcement, telling WWBT, “I’m relieved that they are doing it. It’s almost like they’re believing me now. I’m glad that they are doing it in case someone did see Keeshae. I feel it in my heart and my soul that my daughter is out there.”

For the next few years, Keeshae’s case drifted in and out of the media. Richmond Police kept the investigation open and active, following up on every lead. Toni spoke with news reporters and kept an active presence on social media. Every April, she spearheaded the Missing Persons Day Rally in Richmond and spoke up about the need for more resources in the community. In 2018, the family announced a $3,000 reward for information in Keeshae’s case. There was forward motion for a while, but eventually, the case went quiet.

Then, in November of 2022, the man who was last seen with Keeshae made headlines hundreds of miles away from Richmond.

Otis Lee Tucker, the man Toni had confronted six years earlier about her daughter’s disappearance, was arrested in Jacksonville, Florida, and charged with the brutal murder of 34-year-old Ashley Fowler. When Toni found out about the arrest, she was overcome with a mixture of emotions – anger at Otis Tucker, frustration with investigators, and heartbreak for Ashley’s family. Toni was sure that Otis was involved in Keeshae’s disappearance, and she believed there was more than enough evidence to prove it, but he had evaded justice and was now responsible for the death of another young woman. She told NBC12 that she had spoken to Ashley’s mother, and the two women had grieved together. “We talked on the phone a couple of times, and I literally apologized to her. It was two mothers on the phone crying. She’s praying for me that I get the answers, and I’m praying for her because she lost her daughter in the process of me trying to get the information and get this man prosecuted.”

Officials in Richmond and Jacksonville worked together to compare notes in both cases and hopefully answer some of the questions that came with Otis Tucker’s arrest. But while he was convicted for Ashley’s murder, investigators still couldn’t definitively link him to Keeshae’s disappearance. Her case faded into the background yet again.

Then, on May 6, 2024, Toni posted to her Facebook page. “I would like to thank you for your love and prayers for the past seven and a half years. My heart is broken and so heavy right now. I am sad to say my baby Keeshae is no longer with us.”

According to the Richmond Police Department, they now have reason to believe that Keeshae Jacobs is deceased. A police spokesperson told CBS6, “Detectives have never ceased investigating the Keeshae Jacobs case since her disappearance in September 2016. We have worked with the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney to provide the family with the details as we know them, regarding what we now understand to be the tragic situation which led to the death of [Keeshae] Jacobs. In respect to family members, further information will be released at a later time.”

Keeshae’s family held a memorial service a few days after the announcement, with hundreds of loved ones gathering together to remember her beautiful spirit. During the eulogy, Reverend Stephen Artis said, “I’m sure that she was able to leave an impressionable heart within your life. She made you smile, she made you laugh, she made you do things that you probably never thought that you could do before… We celebrate and we remember her life because she lives inside of you.”

As of this recording, no further details about Keeshae’s case have been released to the public, and no charges have been filed. Otis Tucker, the only named suspect in the case, is currently serving a life sentence in the Florida Department of Corrections for the murder of Ashley Fowler. We can only hope that justice for Keeshae is coming soon, and that her family and friends can find solace in her memory.