‘Still a struggle’: Mother continues search for answers years after daughter’s mysterious death

CHARLOTTE — For the past seven years, one question has gone unanswered for Frenetta Hammonds: what happened to my daughter?

In February 2017, Hammonds’ daughter, Shania, was in high school with aspirations of joining the military and becoming a veterinarian.

But Shania was never able to graduate after she was found dead by her friend in the backyard of a home on Willow Gate Lane. Frenetta told Channel 9 she knew something was wrong when she called Shania and got sent straight to voicemail.

“I just kept calling her phone, calling her phone, calling her phone and she wouldn’t answer,” Frenetta Hammonds said, “And she usually wouldn’t go anywhere without her phone.”

According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, someone called 911 to report a dead body in the backyard of the home where Shania was staying with her friend and her friend’s grandmother.

Detectives simply classified the incident as a death investigation.

Shania’s autopsy report classified her death as ‘undetermined’, even though detectives say they found signs of a struggle in her room.

“I’ve been searching for answers, I’ve been coming to conclusions in my head,” Hammonds said.

Detective Miranda James took over Shania’s case in 2018; that’s when CMPD changed the case classification to a homicide investigation.

“This case is unique because we don’t have an actual cause of death for Shania; the medical examiner ruled the manner of death and the cause of death undetermined,” James said, “It’s being investigated as a homicide because all of the circumstances surrounding it lean more that way, that something happened to Shania rather than a medical event.”

Detective James has made it clear this is not a cold case, but the cause of Shania’s death is still unanswered.

“We’re not looking for a murder weapon. We don’t know what happened to her,” she said.

Court documents show Shania was wearing shorts when her body was found in the middle of February. Detectives believe someone moved her body behind the house. Shania’s autopsy notes injuries around her face similar to those from an assault.

Warrants show that police took gloves and a phone from the home.

“We have done additional testing, even within the last year on evidence. So technology moves very quickly,” James said.

She said there are a few of evidence she’s hopeful will help to shed some light.

“That’s my career goal at this point, is to one day be able to tell Shania’s mom answers,” James said, “One day be able to give her answers about what happened to her daughter.”

Frenetta is temporarily living in California, while detectives continue to search for answers in Charlotte. She says her dream is to not only return home but return with answers.

“I’m not going to stop until I take my last breath and maybe her brothers will take it up after that,” Hammonds said.

(WATCH BELOW: ‘I’m not going away’: Woman still hopeful as son’s killing remains unsolved 1 year later)