Saniyya Dennis’ family received devastating news regarding her disappearance this week. According to New York state authorities, investigators shared they have reason to believe that the 19-year-old honor student died by apparent suicide.
“It appears that this poor girl took her own life,” Erie County District Attorney John Flynn told reporters on Thursday morning.
“I feel awful for the parents,” he said. “As a father of five, this is difficult.”
Authorities informed Saniyya’s family of one day prior to Flynn’s announcement.
Flynn laid out the timeline of events which investigators believe led to her final moments. He shared that on April 24, the last day Saniyya was physically seen, she engaged in an argument with her boyfriend over the phone. After, Saniyya contacted a male friend and expressed that she had suicidal ideations.
Hours later Saniyya told the friend that she decided against taking her own life, but was seen on camera around 11 p.m. leaving her dorm room at SUNY Buffalo State College. Investigators believe that she was captured throwing away personal items in a campus trash can.
Police discovered that Saniyya took two different buses going toward Niagara Falls and was last captured on camera walking toward Goat Island where her phone was pinged, according to Flynn. Around 12:18 a.m. she received a text from her male friend that if she did not call him in 30 seconds he would call the police.
Moments later the friend reached out to Saniyya, who informed him that intended on jumping off a bridge. After speaking for an hour she convinced her friend that she was returning home on a bus, which according to phone records and pings, was untrue. At 1:20 a.m. Saniyya’s phone left the network signaling it was destroyed or turned off.
While investigators believe the cause of death was suicide, they remain adamant in continuing a recovery search. Flynn did warn that because of the terrain where search teams are focusing, her body may not be found.
Allegedly, Saniyya’s boyfriend and the male friend did not immediately report her disappearance to the police. Her family contacted authorities on April 26, launching a community wide search.
On social media, Saniyya’s supporters voiced speculation around the suicide allegation based on other cases where Black victims were accused of taking their own life or died during unexplainable circumstances. Others advocated for mental health awareness in Black communities.
During a press conference last week to rally a community wide search, Saniyya’s family described her as a young woman full of promise.
My daughter is a Black honor roll student at the college and has no tendency of doing nothing,” her father Calvin Byrd said. “We’re all baffled as to what’s going on.”
Keyora Dennis, Saniyya’s sister, echoed their father’s sentiments.
“Saniyya worked two jobs. She was a mechanical engineer major. She was very focused on her studies,” she said. “She was a good friend, a good person. She has a good heart.”
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