Family Of Murdered Mom Celebrates Her Birthday With Balloon Release Monday

EUSTIS, Florida—Melissa Nease would have turned 30 Monday.

Instead of celebrating this milestone birthday, Nease’ children and their father Shane Jenkins, her big sister Amy Harris, her mom Lisa Nease, best friend Abby Henderson and more than three dozen loved ones, sang “Happy Birthday” and released more than 100 balloons at her gravesite at Greenwood Cemetery Monday afternoon, many wearing memorial pink—Nease’ favorite color—shirts.

Nease’ mom, had a special “#1” balloon to signify a long-running family joke. Nease always made cracks about being Lisa’s number one daughter, Harris said with a smile.

Several of Nease’ loved ones held back tears as they spoke about her to Inside Lake. Henderson, who was her best friend for four years, said they instantly became best friends when they met and went through a lot of ups and downs together. Monday was a way to honor Nease and her birthday, but she misses her terribly and wants justice for her friend.

“It’s not any kind of relief,” Henderson said. “It won’t bring the peace we’re waiting for.”

Nease will be remembered for heart, Henderson said. “She was always so loving to everybody.”

Shane Jenkins and his daughter kneel next the Melissa Nease’ grave Monday, Monday would have been Nease’ 30th birthday.
PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

Nearly 10 months ago, Nease, 29, was found murdered in her secluded Ocklawaha home in Marion County the afternoon of Feb. 28, by a family friend.

The 2010 graduate of Tavares High School, was home alone while Jenkins and their three children were out of town when she was shot; Marion County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the case. MCSO has released little information in the case—just two short video clips showing two assailants running away from her home following the murder.

PHOTO: Melissa Nease/Facebook

Jenkins choked back tears as he spoke to Inside Lake Monday night. He said he spends his time focused on his children; he shared two daughters and a son with Nease, and they visit her grave each week. Jenkins’ mom, Stacey Miller, passed away in 2019 and Nease is buried right next to her.  

He tries to keep his children entertained and busy, “I do everything for them,” he said. “I’m with my kids 24/7.”

Shane Jenkins stands next to the grave of his murdered girlfriend Monday afternoon. PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

Jenkins theory on Nease’ murder is a burglary gone bad. He thinks the perpetrators believed the whole family was out of town and Nease surprised them and they killed her.

“It eats at me every day,” he said. “We want this person caught more than anybody.’

Jenkins moved out of the home where the murder happened because it was just too hard for him. He had to clean up the home after her murder and the pain was obvious in his face as he spoke. “We moved out of there as soon as we could.”

Unidentified suspect In Melissa’s Nease’ murder. PHOTO: Marion County Sheriff’s Office

Harris vows to never let up until her sister’s killers are caught.

“I’m not stopping,” Harris said. “Marion County needs to know, I’m coming.”

If you have information on the murder of Nease, call MCSO Det. Daniel Pinder at (352) 368-3508 or if you wish to remain anonymous, call Marion County Crime Stoppers at (352) 368-STOP (7867) and reference 21-20 in your call.

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