Family of missing Bronx teen says they don't believe DA's report of suicide
The family of a Buffalo State College student and Bronx native is refuting the Erie County District Attorney's belief the 19-year-old died by suicide.
Through a representative, the family says there are discrepancies in the investigation. They claim they are being denied access to video and other evidence and they want proof Saniyya Dennis actually left her school.
Nearly three weeks ago police say Dennis was last seen on surveillance video leaving her college dorm room.
Her body has not been found, but the Erie County District Attorney's Office claims Dennis died by suicide after her phone pinged near Niagara Falls, and search dogs tracked her scent near water.
"If in fact that dog smelled decomposition of her body, then he smelled a dead person. Not necessarily Saniyya because they're not trained to scent death that belongs to a specific individual, rather they're trained to scent and smell death," said Sherri Jefferson, executive director of African American Juvenile Justice Project.
Reports say the dogs picked up her scent from clothes in her dorm room.
The family is also shutting down claims Dennis wanted to take her own life after her boyfriend broke up with her over a text message.
"Due to COVID, they video chat, they spoke, but there was not this serious relationship, if you will, that within three to four months that she's going to be so head over heels for this man that she would resolve to suicide," said Jefferson.
The family also alleges that the DA never met with them to tell them about the suicide findings.
The office told News 12 in a statement, "Our office met with the family of Saniyya Dennis last week to provide an update on the investigation into her disappearance. At this time, findings from the investigation indicate that Saniyya traveled alone from the Buffalo State College campus to Niagara Falls State Park where she took her own life during the early morning hours of Sunday, April 25, 2021. My office and our partners in law enforcement have found no evidence of any criminality in this case. All evidence indicates that Saniyya ended her own life, but the investigation into her disappearance will not be closed until she is found."
With high numbers of human trafficking in the region, the family says they are not stopping at the suicide findings.
The family representative also claims that local police up North received four different names of men who could be responsible for Dennis' disappearance, but they claim the DA never released those names to the press.