Let’s talk about it: Zaylee Fryar

Zaylee Grace Fryar would have turned seven years old in January, assuming she’s still alive. She’s been missing from Millersville, Tennessee since the age of three and a half months.

Late in the evening May 1, 2011, Zaylee’s mom, Shauna Fryar, took her out, supposedly to go to the store, but probably to buy drugs. Shauna can’t have planned to stay out long, because she left everything behind, including Zaylee’s diaper bag — I’m given to understand that’s a kind of essential item when you’re dealing with an infant. In any case, mother and daughter never returned.

(I need to insert a word here about Shauna’s domestic situation: she was married and the mother of eight children, but most of them, including Zaylee, weren’t her husband’s. They both saw other people and were on more of a friendship basis with each other. Shauna’s husband was at the hospital when Zaylee was born, and invited them to crash at his place as they were homeless. Zaylee’s biological father was in jail at the time Shauna and Zaylee disappeared.)

Five days later, Shauna’s body was pulled out of the Cumberland River in Nashville, less than twenty miles south of Millersville. For a very long time the cops had nothing to say about her death, the cause, anything. It wasn’t until 2015 that they finally disclosed she’d been the victim of a homicide and they thought she’d been killed in Millersville and dumped in Nashville. They also said they had suspects. They haven’t said anything more since then.

So what happened to Zaylee? No one appears to know.

Usually, in circumstances like these, the women are killed FOR their babies. Andre Bryant‘s is a good example of that; two women lured his mom away with him, killed her and vanished with the baby. In homicides where the woman just happens to have her baby with her, the killers tend to either leave alive it at the crime scene or abandon it alive somewhere. (I’ve got a couple of cases where women have disappeared and their babies turned up abandoned: Norma Morales, Kimberly Palmer, etc. I tend to assume if that happens there’s a very good chance the woman is dead.) Rarely do they also kill the baby; I mean, it’s not like it would be able to testify against them in court.

Shauna’s drug habit and the circumstances of her disappearance would seem to indicate her murder was probably drug-related, but I have no idea whether there’s any actual evidence to support this because, like I said, the police haven’t said much. It’s possible Shauna was killed for an entirely different reason. But even if it was a drug-related homicide, that doesn’t mean Zaylee isn’t still out there, perhaps having been sold for drugs. I mean, she was adorable, and healthy infants do have some street value.

Sadly, I think it’s also possible she could have been put in the Cumberland River with her mother. Three-month-old girls tend to weigh only 12 to 14 pounds. A body that size would be easy to miss.

So what do you think happened to Zaylee? Is it likely that she’s still alive? Let’s talk about it.

13 thoughts on “Let’s talk about it: Zaylee Fryar

  1. Alice March 9, 2017 / 12:52 pm

    Well, it’s certainly a possibility.

  2. Gillian March 9, 2017 / 6:35 pm

    It’s impossible to know without knowing who murdered the Mother, and why?
    Sadly, a three month old babies body would easily be lost if she was put on the river with her Mum. Wild animals, etc…
    If the police knew who murdered the Mother, then they might know the likelihood of those people being able to sell the baby. I imagine selling a baby is quite complex.
    So, it could be either a drug deal gone wrong, were unfortunately it’s likely they may killed the baby too.
    Or, someone could have targeted the Mother with the intention of murdering her, and stealing her baby.
    It’s a shocking crime.
    Was the babies Father definitely in prison at the time of the murder?
    I wonder if the police spoke to him, or members of his family?
    Really anything could have happened.
    Such a harrowing case…

    • Meaghan March 9, 2017 / 6:41 pm

      Yeah he was definitely in jail. He was released a few weeks later, after Shauna’s body was found.

  3. Gillian March 9, 2017 / 7:04 pm

    I’ve had a quick read of a few articles about this case.
    Apparently, the police had two suspects, but they didn’t say who, or why.
    The police don’t seem to know what caused the Mothers death, but they are sure it’s murder.
    The Mothers relationship with her Husband (Michael Fryar) seems unusual…
    They both saw other people, and were more like friends then a married couple.
    I wonder if Michael had anything to do with what happened?
    Maybe he still had feelings for Shauna?
    Maybe he was finding it hard to accept the new baby?
    Apparently, at the time of the murder Shauna had left home without her phone, or her purse, or even a changing bag for the baby. Surly she’d at least bring her phone if she was scoring drugs?
    Also, Michael waited two days before reporting them missing.
    I wonder if Michael had an argument with Shauna, and killed her somewhere near their house? That would explain why she didn’t have her phone, and purse, etc…
    Also, I read an article in The Tennessean that claimed the police dragged their heels on this case, and didn’t process the evidence properly.
    It would be wonderful if the child was still alive, but sadly it seems unlikely…

  4. Justin March 9, 2017 / 7:30 pm

    According to the Charley Project webpage for Shannon Dale Verhage who was 11-months old was murdered by her mother’s killer Marvin Gabrion because according to what he told two other inmates while incarcerated “… there was nowhere else to put it”.

    When you are dealing with true sociopaths, they are capable of doing anything to anyone. I don’t know if the people who murdered Shauna also murdered Zaylee, although it’s definitely a possibility, but anything could have happened. Zaylee might have been sold, or given away. She might have been abandoned someplace far away (and hopefully found alive). She might have been kept for a while, then died of neglect or abuse and the body disposed of. Honestly, anything could have happened and unless someone talks and/or she is identified (her NamUs webpage states that DNA is available), I doubt we will find out.

    • terromangerro March 9, 2017 / 11:26 pm

      Ugh, that case you mention makes my stomach turn. Gabrion is a true monster. The circumstances of the mother’s death are horrific: first, he allegedly raped her, then threatened her against testifying. Then he assaulted her, wrapped chains around her (if I remember correctly) and threw her in a lake while still alive,

      She had to have been scared to death for her child. I think his description of not having anything else to do with the baby was a cop out; he was so evil, he likely enjoyed killing the child and I wouldn’t be surprised if he killed the baby in front of the mother before he murdered her as well.

      He might try to downplay that because of how it would look for him as an inmate who possibly tortured and murdered a baby. That said, we don’t know enough about Zaylee’s case to know if her fate was similar. If the killer were particularly evil, he might have used the baby to emotionally abuse Shauna or get her to “talk” if he thought she had info/money/drugs that he wanted. I hope not, because what happened to Shannon’s mother was horrific. But it could be the case.

  5. Shawna March 9, 2017 / 8:00 pm

    This is a tough one. You bring up some good points about Shauna possibly being killed expressly for the baby, and it being pointless for drug dealers to kill a baby instead of abandoning it like they usually do. That happened here a few years ago-mother killed presumably while buying drugs, baby left in the car (unharmed), but they were able to nab her killers.
    I find it ironic that the victim’s sister said she would never put her daughter in harm’s way, but apparently, she did. Goes to show you just never know how someone’s judgment will fail them to feed an addiction.
    If Zaylee is out there, it could be another Kamiyah Mobley situation. It’s also possible she was a an accidental casualty along with her mother in a drug deal gone bad and dumped into the river with her mother, only not found. Sad case, either way.

  6. Gillian March 9, 2017 / 8:43 pm

    Is there any information on what drugs the Mother was using?
    Was it a physically addictive drug that she needed daily?
    Or, was it a drug she used at weekends, or when she partied?
    I find it strange that she didn’t have her phone, her purse, or her car with her? All these items were found left behind at her house…
    Surely she’d need a phone, and purse if she was buying drugs?
    This is just a hunch, but ‘if’ her Husband had something to do with her death, then wouldn’t it be likely that he’d tell police she’d gone to buy drugs, to give the impression that she was a careless, and unfit Mother, who put herself and her baby in a dangerous situation.
    It seems her family knew she’d had an on and off problem with drugs, but there’s no mention of what drug, or how serious her drug problem actually was.
    Do the police now without a doubt that Shauna went to buy drugs that day?
    It’s the fact that she didn’t bring her phone/purse/money/baby bag/car, that puzzles me.
    Maybe the story of her going to buy drugs that day is a way of painting a bad picture of Shauna, and sending police looking on the wrong direction…
    It’s all guess work, and hunches, it must be very frustrating for her family not knowing what happened to the poor little baby…

  7. terromangerro March 9, 2017 / 11:13 pm

    I think there are a few cases like this, where the mother was murdered or likely murdered (if she hasn’t been found) and the child is still missing. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine a scenario where a murderer of the mother would have a quick and quiet source to “sell” a living baby off to on the fly.

    If she was killed over a drug debt, or she pissed off the wrong person and it was an impulse killing, that suspect probably didn’t have a way to sell or pass off the baby so quickly that there was no trace of it. Still, we have to know more about the circumstances of Shauna’s murder to get a better idea. Did Shauna die of drowning in the river? If so, to me that’s the most likely manner of death where Zaylee would have gone in the river with her…if she were holding the baby at the time. If Shauna died prior to being put in the river, something had to have been done with Zaylee between the time of the death and the time that Shauna was put in the river. It still doesn’t bode well for Zaylee but I think it gives her at least a chance at having survived this. SadlyI don’t have high hopes for Zaylee being found alive.

    • terromangerro March 9, 2017 / 11:17 pm

      Also I forgot to add, I doubt Shauna’s husband was involved. Just an assumption here, but if he had a criminal history and had been involved with drugs at the time of their disappearances, I doubt he would have filed the missing persons report. To do so, and put himself in the spotlight, he had to be concerned about them. It looks like she was killed prior to going into the river, and to me that gives a tiny bit more hope that Zaylee might be alive.

  8. Jami March 12, 2017 / 7:09 am

    I think poor Zaylee followed her mom into that water. I don’t think mom’s husband killed her though.
    Someone mentioned the marriage being unusual because they both saw other people, but I don’t think so: if mom was 28 when she wdied in 2011 and married in 1999, that would make her about 16 as a bride. That is so young! Besides, she had so many kids outside her marriage and the husband didn’t kill her until now?

  9. Jami March 12, 2017 / 7:10 am

    Also, parents whose children were abandoned when they went missing would make a good Make a List.

  10. Celeste Keenan March 12, 2017 / 11:17 pm

    I wonder if it’s possible that Zaylee was given to someone who maybe wanted a baby because they were faking a pregnancy like in the Kamayah Mobley case?

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