LAST CHANCE AT JUSTICE: St. Johns County prosecutor won’t charge sole suspect in cold case claiming lack of evidence

PROJECT COLD CASE: Family fighting state attorney to file charges

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Sisters Shuri Sheppard and Suzanne Speight, have been waiting 39 years for justice in the murder of their mom Nancy Jo Canode.

They’ve gotten close to getting some answers only to be right back at square one after the prosecutor in the case won’t charge claiming there’s not enough evidence to secure a conviction.

Action News Jax found District 7 State Attorney RJ Larizza at a Jacksonville shopping center in early March.

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After his office declined an on-camera interview, Action News Jax requested his public schedule and waited for him to arrive at a scheduled lunch meeting.

“The family feels like it’s personal though between you and them is that true?” asked Lorena Inclán.

“Nothing could be farther from the truth,” said Larizza. Speight and Sheppard say their relationship with Larizza has deteriorated over the years. The sisters worry they’ve become a thorn in Larizza’s side causing the delay in prosecuting the only man suspected in the murder of their mom. “Look I understand they lost their mother I mean anyone who loses a family member they’re going to be emotional,” said Larizza. Canode was strangled and stabbed repeatedly with an ice pick in her Ponte Vedra Beach home. No one has never been charged even though the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office found probable cause against the only suspect. Through the years Larizza’s office has reviewed the case and even got help from Kelly Siegler and Yolanda McClary, two high-profile investigators who featured Canode’s case on the show Cold Justice. Even an attorney from the office of statewide prosecution, named Cass Castillo, offered to take over the case. “Right. I have not talked to him,” said Larizza.

“Why not give it to him?” asked Inclán.

“This is a 7th circuit case, this is my responsibility and I don’t shirk my responsibility I take it very seriously,” said Larizza. All along Speight has argued for a chance to go before the grand jury and let them decide. “I strongly feel like if someone like Castillo feels that there’s a potential to take it to trial that we deserve that opportunity as a family to have justice for our mother,” said Speight. Larizza claims his office continues to look for any additional developments in the case. Right now this a circumstantial case but despite the lack of physical evidence, seasoned investigators like Siegler and McClary believe there’s enough to move forward. “Are you worried that the suspect could get away with murder?” asked Inclán.

“I’m worried about the system and doing it the right way. We don’t want somebody to get away with murder but if you charge somebody before you have the evidence to prove it, they’re going to get away with it,” said Larizza. Speight said there’s nothing else left to do, unless, they could find the life insurance policy taken out in her mom’s name. “I don’t believe they will find the insurance policy or find anything new so to continue to actively pursue it I feel that could be a dead-end,” said Speight.

If you have any information that could help solve the murder of Nancy Jo Canode or any other cold case please call the Crime Stoppers line at 888-277-TIPS (8477) to speak to a live call taker. You will remain anonymous and can be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000.