“Death is really weird for a lot of people because people say, ‘We will never forget’ or you know, ’Will never be forgotten’ but… people forget. When you really love someone deeply, I don’t think you forget and I think if you love somebody you talk about them.” -Justin Robinson
The heart-felt quote above is from the gut-wrenching documentary, “My Brother Jordan.” It was suggested to me as a means to help me move on through my grief and I immediately thought about Sharon West. Wait, let me back up for a second. Our True Crime community on Reddit is currently exploding with the solving of I don’t know how many cold cases now due to advancements in DNA. It seems like every other day a cold case is being solved and there’s an outpouring of communities desperately seeking information on those who are missing and mysterious deaths. Sharon West has been on my mind for a few months now. Justin Robinson’s had me in tears, most of you know why I am grieving, and then I remembered Sharon has a sister. Luckily, I was able to get into contact with her sister, Kaylynn West, who is absolutely delighted that someone out there still hasn’t forgotten.
Sharon West was a vivacious 14-year-old girl who went missing after a party on July 30th, 2011. She had a beautiful, warm smile and wide-eyed expression. Free-spirited Sharon would often dye her hair vibrant colors with facial piercings and tattoos. The troubled teenager often climbed out of her father’s home windows with the shower running. She also snuck out of her grandfather’s nursing home bathroom. This is not uncommon among troubled teens who are just looking for love and it’s all too familiar. Sharon and her sister Kaylynn had an unstable upbringing. Her father worked as a short-haul trucker and her mother was struggling to find work. Sharon and her sister were left home alone regularly.
On one occasion in 2010, aged 13, she got into a fight with her mother and stormed off before a 29-year-old man picked her up, offering her Vicodin and alcohol. Sharon’s boyfriend, Austin Meaux, tracked her down to a motel in Winnie, Texas a few days later. She would spend the next three days at the Fannin Behavioral Center in Beaumont, Tx, a place that regularly fumbles through hundreds and hundreds of cases they simply do not have the resources or skills to manage. The overflow at this facility for adults and adolescence in unsettling and the outpatient services for addicts is even worse. Not much has changed since 2010. The Beaumont Enterprise reported that the man responsible for this endeavor was awaiting trial but I am waiting on feedback to confirm if he was ever held responsible.
A therapist visited with her on a couple of occasions, after her release, until ‘Sharon’ felt she no longer needed to seek treatment. Within the span of a year Sharon flipped flopped between three different homes. Her father said the 14-year-old “Smoked and drank a little, and did other things you don’t need to know about.” On another occasion he accused her of using her money from tutoring to buy alcohol and cigarettes. (She got all A’s and B’s in school and tutored younger children, for a short time.) After catching her smoking marijuana in his garage, Lynn couldn’t take anymore. Sharon and Kaylynn expressed their desires to move back in with their mother so they both moved to Jasper until Sharon pleaded with her mother and was allowed to move in with her boyfriend, Austin, and his family over the Summer of 2011.
Sharon’s stay with her boyfriend was only meant to be a temporary stay. Sandra intended to pick her daughter up the last Sunday of July but would not make it down till that Tuesday, due to complications finding a ride. This worked out for Sharon because she wanted to attend the party that Friday evening. This would be Sharon’s final party. Few details have come to light about the party. The friends and family have been pretty hush hush about the event. Her boyfriend told the authorities that he went to bed at 2a.m. and Sharon wasn’t ready to turn in for the night so she walked to a nearby soccer field, a popular hang out spot for the kids. At 5:20am she texted a friend with her whereabouts and she sent another text to a friend approximately 40 minutes later before her cellphone died.
“Do you know where Sharon is?” This is the text message Austin sent Sandra the following day. A bewildered Sandra asks, “Isn’t she with you?” Sandra and Lynn West both began calling and texting Sharon but she was not responding. Everyone who knew Sharon flocked to her Facebook page for answers where a slew of rumors and mud-slinging ran for pages and pages. Friends of hers provided theories as to what may have happened. The comments seemed never ending. I chimed in with, “Where are Austin’s parents and why are they keeping silent?” Something wasn’t right. Most of the kids commenting had their personal profiles draped in alcohol and drug use but questions about this so-called party fell on deaf ears. It was time for Sharon’s family to get some answers.
Dozens of volunteers and authorities combed the field with helicopters, four wheelers, dogs, and horses. The family hired a private investigator, Chuck Foreman, who strongly believed Sharon did not run away. Personal belongings and her cellphone would have been in her possession and that’s questionable, given her history, but Sharon’s mother insisted that it was out of character for her and that she would have contacted her. Sandra West created a Facebook page with the following message, “Sharon has been missing since July 30, 2011. She literally just vanished. There are so many stories, rumors, and scenarios about her disappearance. None of that matters. The only thing that matters is finding her. She has a family and friends that love and miss her terribly.” I had argued that these things most definitely did matter. This was an unpopular opinion. “Yea, it bothered me, but I couldn’t stop her.” Facebook posts covering Sharon’s whereabouts revealed that the girl had been hanging with a questionable crowd. Her own page provided an insight into her daily regiments with a cigarette, alcohol and drugs joining the photograph. Most of those photos have since been deleted along with her Facebook page.
It’s not that Sharon and her mother had a strained relationship. She was still very affectionate with her mother and I want to point out that this is NOT a smear campaign for Sharon’s family, nor Sharon. These details are vital. I use to sneak out of my parent’s house and party with friends when I was 14 as well and this could have easily been me. No judgement here.
It’s worth noting that the authorities refused to issue an Amber Alert. Private investigator Chuck Foreman pressured the police, “It’s not right. She has been missing weeks now and we have nothing. If the authorities had taken this more seriously from the start they might have found something.” Her family’s worst nightmares came true. This was not a another runaway case. Sharon’s scattered remains were discovered by a rancher in Hamshire-Fannet on October 28th, 2011 with her skull resting in an empty canal. Sandra confirmed that the glasses and pajama shorts found belonged to Sharon. Forensic analysis have been unsuccessful in determining a cause of death. Heat and moisture debased what could have been important evidence. Her toxicology report has never been made public but after conversing with Sharon’s sister she did confirm that the 14-year-old had been on bath salts at that evening.
I asked Kaylynn about the drug use and if the police had investigated everyone at that party. Her information was limited. Kaylynn wasn’t at the party but feels everyone involved needs to be interrogated. She still questions why Austin and his family members have not been charged. Could Sharon have overdosed? Could she have fallen? Why was the area immediately bulldozed? There are so many unanswered questions. “The investigation was incredibly un-in-depth,” Kaylynn continued. Deputy Rod Carroll, a Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said the case still sits on a shelf, open. I think it’s time to pull Sharon off of the shelf because her family has not forgotten.
What do we know about Austin? Friends and loved ones still believe he knows exactly happened to Sharon. “Everyone in Fannet with half a brain knows he killed her! If there was ever a case that needs to be reopened, Sharon’s is one of them. Justice has not been served!” This was seven years ago. October 7, 2013. This was one of the comments on a public service announcement for an arrest warrant in 2013.
“The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office is requesting the assistance of residents of West Jefferson County in locating a Wanted Fugitive. The Warrant Division is attempting to locate Austin James Meaux, age 19. Mr. Meaux is wanted on a Theft Class A warrant that was issued on September 30, 2013.
Austin James Meaux is described as follows:
Weight: 158 lbs.
Mr. Meaux is wanted for the warrant and questioning in other crimes. He is believed to be hiding in the Hamshire – Fannett and Winnie area.” Austin was eventually taken into custody but his current whereabouts remain largely unknown.
Sharon West’s memory lives on. I’d like to thank Kaylynn West for letting me write about this but consider this an introduction. I am still interviewing family members and friends of hers. Her old school mates have reached out to me with compliments of her brisk personality. Some saying she was quite funny and easy to be around. A tree was planted in Sharon’s memory at Hamshire-Fannet High School. I’d like to know if that tree still stands. We get too many hurricanes in this area.