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Autopsy: Missing Troy woman was strangled to death

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Hazel Park — The body of a 21-year-old Troy woman, missing for over a week, was found in the Hazel Park home of a friend, the woman’s mother said Wednesday.

Jessica Leigh White

An autopsy Wednesday by the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the manner of Jessica White’s death was “homicide” and the cause was “strangulation by ligature.” She had been the subject of a search since she failed to return to her mother’s home on April 23 after a late-night visit with the friend.

Police Chief Martin Barner said the suspect — whom he identified as Jordan McClanahan — was accompanied by his father when surrendered to Troy Police at 8:10 p.m. Tuesday.

White’s mother, Karen White, was picking up a coffee at a nearby restaurant Wednesday morning, still unable to sleep, still unable to accept the news her daughter was dead.

Jordan McClanahan

“I received a text last night and went out to the house where police were still inside,” said White, referring to the address on East Woodward Heights where the friend lived.

“I waited out on the sidewalk until someone could talk to me and they said they had found her ... but couldn’t give me any more details. I don’t know what they did to her but they said they still had to get a positive ID. But they know it’s her.

“Things are pretty confusing right now. I can’t tell you when I slept last. But I knew something was wrong — and I knew something had happened in that house.”

McClanahan told detectives White’s body could be found in the home’s attic.

“In interviews with detectives from Troy and Hazel Park, he implicated himself in the death,” Barner said. “Her body was found in an enclosed attic with only one access door, which was in his attached bedroom. The door was concealed by a desk.

“He remains in custody and we are seeking felony murder charges for him.”

McClanahan is not expected to be formally charged until Thursday, Barner said.

Barner would not discuss what led up to the killing.

Barner said Hazel Park and Troy police had visited the home twice, including a search of the house, but found nothing, before returning a third time and making the grim discovery.

Police went to the Woodward Heights address on April 24 after White filed a missing persons report. White said she was also told police entered and searched the house last Saturday and reported it was “filthy” but apparently did not find any evidence inside of her daughter. It was not immediately known what caused them to return to the address Tuesday night.

Jessica White had sent text messages to her mother and a cousin around 2:30 a.m. Saturday when she was apparently visiting a 24-year-old man who she has known since grade school, according to family.

White said her daughter was not romantically involved with McClanahan.

“She felt sorry for him for some reason and he was always asking her to hang out with him,” White said. “That was all she was doing on Friday night. She told me she was going to tell him she had to get home in a few hours because she had a baby-sitting job.”

Jessica White texted her mother that the man and his father were arguing and it was an “awkward” situation. The mother did not read the text until several hours later. A cousin received a text about the same time that simply said: “Ho,” as if trying to determine if the relative was awake at the time.

Neither woman ever received a phone call saying White needed a ride home.

Her mom has since learned her daughter’s phone was turned off at 3:15 a.m. — about a half hour after she received her final text.

“I want her phone back,” White said. “I know she had a lot of pictures of herself in it that I would like to keep.”

The friend who had picked her up at her Troy home about 11 p.m. April 22 to go out for a few hours later gave police inconsistent statements about where he had dropped her off that morning. His father initially told police neither he nor his son knew White.

White’s mother confronted the friend who first told her he had dropped her daughter off at the mother’s home around 8 a.m. Saturday. When the mother said she was awake then and that never happened, the man told her he dropped her off near Seven Mile in Detroit.

White left the house with only $8 and did not show up for a weekend baby-sitting job, her mother said. Calls to her cellphone went unanswered.

Family and friends took to the streets of both Hazel Park and Detroit to pass out fliers seeking information on White’s whereabouts.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319