Slain girl’s mother described as loving, troubled

Maiessa Treadway, 8, sighs as she puts a purple necklace on a doll to honor the memory of 6-year-old Jadianna Larsen.
Maiessa Treadway, 8, sighs as she puts a purple necklace on a doll to honor the memory of 6-year-old Jadianna Larsen. lsterling@sacbee.com

In the days before 6-year-old Jadianna Larsen’s burned body was found in a rural area of Glenn County, her mother, Tanecia Clark, had checked herself into a medical facility seeking help for psychological problems, her family said Sunday.

“She went for help about a week ago. She knew something was wrong,” said Clark’s father, David Clark of Sacramento, adding that his daughter has struggled with mental health issues throughout her life. “While she was trying to straighten it out, she trusted someone she shouldn’t have trusted.”

Authorities discovered Jadianna’s body Thursday morning about 90 miles northwest of Sacramento after responding to a fire off a county road. Tanecia Clark’s boyfriend, 25-year-old Juan Rivera of Sacramento – who had been taking care of Jadianna while Clark was getting treatment – was booked Saturday into the Sacramento County Main Jail on suspicion of killing the girl.

Rivera had reported Jadianna missing Thursday night. He told authorities he suffers from epilepsy and was stricken with seizures that left him incapacitated for more than nine hours that day. When the seizures finally subsided, he couldn’t find Jadianna and called 911, Rivera told sheriff’s investigators.

On Sunday – near an altar of candles, cards, drawings and stuffed animals assembled outside Martin Luther King Jr. Village where the little girl, her mom and boyfriend had lived – David Clark balled his fists and said: “I want closure. Jadianna’s my princess, and she has a host of cousins, grandparents and aunts and uncles waiting to know what happened to her.”

Tanecia Clark, 30, attended Natomas High School and volunteered at Bowling Green Charter Elementary in south Sacramento, where Jadianna was in kindergarten, David Clark said. A crisis team of counselors and psychologists will be at Bowling Green throughout the week, said Sacramento City Unified School District spokesman Gabe Ross.

Two of Tanecia’s brothers, Paris Stokes and Dwayne Clark, described Jadianna as a rare spirit who touched all who crossed her path. “She was an angel, one of God’s children. She had that glow, that aura,” said an angry, tearful Dwayne Clark. Some of that came from her mother, “who loved everything. She’d give you anything,” he said. “(Jadianna) was taken from us, and it’s not fair.”

Jadianna radiated “light, joy, happiness and caring, and loved the adults in her life,” Stokes said. “Tanecia was very devastated when she found out what happened – she had nothing to do with it.”

Tanecia’s sparse Facebook page doesn’t list work, school or family details. But it features happy photos of Jadianna. One thing Tanecia shares about herself on the page: “I am a single mother to a beautiful girl who is very smart and that I can say I am proud to be her mother.”

Rivera remains an enigma to Jadianna’s family. “I met him one time, and I didn’t like him,” said David Clark. “I took my granddaughter away from them the day before Mother’s Day, and Tanecia came and got her back.”

Stokes said Rivera, who had been living with Tanecia for several months, “may have taken her to school, he may have played the parent, but we know nothing about him. He’s an empty box.”

Rivera, who listed his occupation as unemployed on his booking sheet at the jail, doesn’t have an extensive rap sheet in Sacramento County and has no violent offenses, sheriff’s Sgt. Lisa Bowman said. While “his local record doesn’t raise an eyebrow,” he does have a fingerprint number and FBI number, indicating he has been arrested or convicted of some type of felony, she said.

Tanecia Clark, who was in a medical facility at the time of her daughter’s disappearance and slaying, isn’t considered a suspect, “but Child Protective Services will automatically do an investigation into her past history with Rivera and her intent to leave the child with somebody who was a dangerous person,” Bowman said.

Clark has lived in Martin Luther King Jr. Village for the past seven years, according to Danny Savala, 52, who said he moved into the complex at the same time she did. The village consists of 80 units designated for disabled, homeless adults. Mental health, substance abuse and employment counseling are all offered on the premises, according to the facility’s web page.

“I knew the baby since she was a year old – they were both well-loved here,” Savala said.

At 10:30 a.m. Thursday, a Glenn County fire crew responded to a brush fire in a rural area near Artois, about a mile and a half off Interstate 5, Sheriff Richard Warren said. “We didn’t see much of a crime scene here; just a body,” he said, adding that it’s too soon to tell whether Jadianna was killed in Sacramento or Glenn County.

Rivera doesn’t appear in Glenn County’s law enforcement database and has no apparent ties there, Warren said. “Our investigators developed enough information for the Sacramento County sheriff to make an arrest, and they’re leading the investigation. We’re also working closely with the California Department of Justice and the FBI.”

Warren said forensic scientists may need several weeks to determine Jadianna’s cause of death with the assistance of the Human Identification Laboratory at California State University, Chico.

On Sunday night, dozens of people turned out for a candlelight vigil for Jadianna at McClatchy Park. A speaker said Jadianna had loved horses. So the crowd gathered near a play area featuring two ornately painted horses. They prayed, and sang, for a little girl whom most never knew.

“Whether you knew Jadianna or just were community members touched by her life, this isn’t easy for anyone,” Loren Ditmore, pastor at City of Refuge in Oak Park, told the crowd. And Kevin Carter, an Oak Park resident, said: “The life of a precious child was taken from us.

“Her soul is still crying out to the weeping angels,” Carter said. “She wants us to hear her voice.”

Stephen Magagnini: (916) 321-1072, @StephenMagagnini

Related stories from Sacramento Bee