CRIME STOPPERS: Still no arrest after woman murdered the day before her birthday

CRIME STOPPERS: Still no arrest after woman murdered the day before her birthday
Janessa Hartley was shot and killed Jan. 15, 2019. (Source: Family)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) -

“We saw a shadow, the kind of shadow where the hair on your neck came up."

CRIME STOPPERS: Who killed Janessa Hartley?

It was a shadow that would change lives, in fact, it would end one...

Surveillance video from the scene of Janessa Hartley’s murder has now been released.

Hartley's best friend, Linda Donnelly, believes she was the victim of a random carjacking.
Hartley's best friend, Linda Donnelly, believes she was the victim of a random carjacking. (Source: WAFB)
Police responded to the scene of Janessa Hartley's murder on Jan. 15, 2019.
Police responded to the scene of Janessa Hartley's murder on Jan. 15, 2019. (Source: WAFB)
Hartley was shot and killed by someone, who, as of November, still has not been arrested.
Hartley was shot and killed by someone, who, as of November, still has not been arrested. (Source: WAFB)

Hartley’s family says her smile lit up the room.

“She was my best friend. I talked with her everyday," said Seth, Hartley’s youngest son, who drove in from Tennessee when he got the news.

Janessa Hartley's family wants justice.
Janessa Hartley's family wants justice. (Source: WAFB)

Hartley was shot and killed Jan. 15 in the Sherwood Forest neighborhood on Brookshire Avenue in Baton Rouge right around 8 p.m.

Nessa, as everybody called her, was about to have a birthday and was out with her best friend, Linda Donnelly. They returned home after a quick dinner and were sitting in Nessa’s car talking before calling it a night. That’s when the shadow showed up, a shadow that turned out to be a shooter. Linda describes him as wearing all black with a white band across his nose and mouth, with nothing but his eyes showing.

“He then decided to shoot. He just shot into the car, and she immediately collapsed," Donnelly said.

But Nessa’s foot was on the gas, so Linda put the car in reverse to tried and get out of there.

“I believe she died instantly, but we tried to save her." -Donnelly

“It backs up, across the street, almost strikes another vehicle, which we don’t know who that is," said lead homicide detective with the Baton Rouge Police Department, Ross Williams.

But Linda thinks she knows. She says the shooter raised the gun like he was going to shoot again, but then another car honked at them.

“Once that car honked, he immediately ran, and they catch up at the stop sign," Donnelly said.

Linda believes the two may have been together. She believes it was possibly a robbery or carjacking gone bad.

“Because we were sitting in the car, the engine was on, her foot was on the brake, so the lights were on. When a car passes by, they see there is a car. That’s an easy carjacking," she said.

“This to me was a random carjacking. People don’t want to say that can happen, but it can happen anywhere.” -Donnelly

In one video, you can hear the shooter’s voice as he approaches the car.

So why were they targeted? How did this shooter happen upon them? Was this a crime of opportunity, or was this personal?

Williams says the neighborhood acts as a thruway between two major roads.

Sgt. Ross Williams with the Baton Rouge Police Department is head of the Homicide Division.
Sgt. Ross Williams with the Baton Rouge Police Department is head of the Homicide Division. (Source: WAFB)

“Some of the side streets that cut through from Old Hammond Highway to Goodwood are the ones that have the access to the thruway," Williams said.

One of those cut through roads is Havenwood Drive, which intersects with Brookshire Avenue, very close to where Nessa and Linda were sitting in their car that night. So was this a random carjacking? What has the family heard since the shooting?

“Not a damn thing," said Megan Cotten, Hartley’s daughter.

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Cotten says she’s not surprised the killer hasn’t been caught yet.

“I kind of felt defeated already when they didn’t have the person right then," Cotten said.

They felt hopeless right from the very beginning, with seemingly no end in sight, impacting everyone.

“When you’re the victim of trauma, a homicide, that grief is ongoing. That trauma is relived over and over again," Cotten said.

“I was fearless before this happened," Donnelly said.

Linda Donnelly, Janessa Hartley's best friend, was in the car with her the night she was shot and killed in what she believes was a random carjacking.
Linda Donnelly, Janessa Hartley's best friend, was in the car with her the night she was shot and killed in what she believes was a random carjacking. (Source: WAFB)

“When you say it out loud, it feels like you’re talking about a TV show or a movie or not your own life. And then you go to look at your phone or anything, and that person isn’t there. And it just hits.” -Seth

“I miss her so much. I just want to talk to her," said Seth.

Nessa’s family wants to bring her justice. For now, they’re holding tightly to their memories: a smile that lit up the room.

Anyone with information in the case is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 225-344-7867. Callers may remain anonymous.

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