SOUTH BRONX, N.Y. (PIX11) — When the naked body of 19-year-old Shonna Brown was discovered in a fetal position in the lobby of a South Bronx apartment building back in 1998, her family couldn’t figure out what she was doing at 525 Jackson Ave.  

“I remember opening the door and there were two detectives,” Shonna’s younger sister, Shaniqua Brown, recalled. 

The investigators were from the Bronx. Shonna Brown had lived her entire life in East Harlem. 

Her disappearance was reported at Manhattan’s 25th Precinct after she didn’t come home on June 2, 1998. There was no identification near her body when a Bronx man who was on his way to work made the discovery on June 3.

“She had a job lined up as a ticket sales agent at Greyhound Bus Lines,” Shaniqua Brown told PIX11 News of her sister. “She was supposed to attend LaGuardia Community College.”

The family said Shonna Brown had also won awards for her study of sign language, an elective course at West Side High School. 

Just months after graduation, Shonna Brown’s body was found with her head and face taped up. She was initially identified by a tattoo on her arm that said “Sexy,” and a scar on her leg caused by a curling iron. The cause of death was strangulation.  

“I had like a nervous breakdown when I went to the funeral home,” the teen’s mother, Evelyn Montgomery, recalled 24 years later. “They had to carry me to the bus stop.”

During the initial investigation, a couple of people told police that Shonna had a new boyfriend who possibly had relatives at 525 Jackson Ave.

“There were people that presented themselves as witnesses,” Det. Robert Klein, of the Bronx Homicide Squad, told PIX11. “Those people are currently not cooperative.”

But Klein is determined to solve Shonna Brown’s murder, working in his current assignment handling cold cases.

“She was a shy girl. She had never had any police contact,” Klein said. “She was an all-American girl who loved fashion, she loved pop culture. I feel like we owe it to her mother, to her sister, to Shonna – to solve this case.”

Bronx Homicide is under the command of Lt. William Sean O’Toole, and his squad recently had success with another cold case, the arrest of Gregory Fleetwood in connection with a 1996 strangulation murder. The victim was a pregnant mom, Jasmine Porter. Police found her young son, who was days away from his fifth birthday, wiping blood from his mother’s nose on Feb. 5, 1996.

“I’m hoping to repeat that success,” Det. Klein said, referring to Shonna Brown’s investigation. The challenge for Klein is getting cooperative witnesses, including several people who once identified a person of interest.

“I’ve flown to different states to seek these people out,” Klein noted. “And thus far, the persons I’ve spoken to are not willing to speak on what they saw or what they stated they saw in 1998.”

Shaniqua Brown – who suddenly lost her older sister 11 months before Shonna was killed – urged the witnesses to come forward.

“The torture that was done to her, it’s not right,” Shaniqua Brown said.  “And someone, I really feel, should step up and say something.”

Det. Klein said even a person with limited involvement in the crime could be extremely helpful to the case.

“Moving a body, perhaps,” Klein observed. “We’re hungry for any and all information.”  

Klein said NYPD Crime Stoppers would offer a reward to someone who provides information that leads to an arrest.

“Whoever did this to my sister, they really destroyed a whole family,” Shaniqua Brown said. “Some people couldn’t cope, they turned to drugs.”

Shonna’s mother said the murder “changed my whole life,” adding that she developed heart trouble and breathing problems.

Shaniqua Brown mentioned that her oldest sister had left behind a young daughter and son, so she poured all her love and attention to them after her two older sisters died. She was only 14 when Shonna was killed.

Shaniqua Brown became a school safety officer and feels she can empathize with young students who have been through trauma.

“When they’ve had a bad day or things like that, I can identify with them,” Shaniqua Brown said. “Because I know how it feels to be hurt, to be alone, to sometimes feel you don’t have anyone.”

Brown said children gravitate to her when she starts work in a new school.

“They actually call me, like, their ‘Big Sis,'” Shaniqua Brown said. “I just show them love and attention. At the end of the day, I don’t have my sisters.”

Anyone who has information on Brown’s murder can contact the Bronx Homicide Squad or NYPD Crime Stoppers, at 1-800-577-TIPS.

“We’re seeking the assistance of anyone in the building, really,” Det. Klein said.