KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The sister of a Johnson County teen is pleading for answers in her death.
Jeneya Dilunga was staying at a Kansas City shelter helping with her mental illness. One day she left and never came back.
On March 20, police found her dead in the back of a pickup truck in the East Bottoms. She overdosed, but her family said she did not have a criminal or history of drug use. Dilunga struggled her whole life with mental illness. Her sister believes she may have found herself in a scary situation before she died.
“She was just a girl who no one understood her pain,” her sister Michelle Mwaduma said. “After her mother passed away was a really hard time for her. Her mental illness was getting worse because she didn’t know how to deal with the loss of her mother.”
Dilunga had schizophrenia and was on the autism spectrum. After her mom died, she struggled and the family could not care for her in their home. They got Jeneya a social worker through Johnson County Mental Health. They helped Dilunga find placement at ReStart in downtown Kansas City.
Mwaduma said there they would help make sure she took her medication and had a safe place to live. She was there for 10 months and while it wasn’t easy, she was doing well.
They would come to Kansas City to see her and bring her back to Overland Park to spend time with their family. They weren’t able to go inside of ReStart due to their policies but believed she was getting the care she needed.
But Mwaduma is concerned she may have met people in Kansas City that put her in this situation. She said her sister always kept in touch with them and answered when they called.
However, one day Dilunga stopped answering her phone.
“She was just gone,” Mwaduma said.
That was around March 14. Mwaduma said no one at ReStart could tell her anything due to HIPAA regulations, and eventually they filed a missing person’s report with the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department.
“They just called my sister one day, saying that she was found in the back of a man’s truck lying there dead with her coat off. That phone call was just very upsetting,” Mwaduma said.
FOX4 spoke with the resident who found Dilunga and called police. She was in the bed of a truck rarely used after overdosing. Her jacket was off and laying next to her body. Police told him Dilunga had been there 12 hours or less. Police do not believe the resident had anything to do with Dilunga’s death.
“I want to know what happened from that time she left ReStart to the time she ended up in the truck,” Mwaduma said.
Mwaduma said police told her someone is using her sister’s EBT card information to make purchases after her death. She would like to know who is using her sister’s card and if they have any information about what happened to her.
“I feel like you have to be a pretty heartless person to use someone’s money after they passed away,” Mwaduma said.
Anna Hoyt works with Healing House in the Historic Northeast. She said what Dilunga went through may have been difficult.
“I was beaten, sexually assaulted when I lived on the streets, and it’s very hard to come out of that,” Hoyt said. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen to you next.”
Hoyt said it can be difficult for family members of those struggling with mental health to get them the proper treatment or keep them safe.
“Do you give them tough love? Do you let go of the situation? Or do you continue to work with them? It’s definitely something you need professional help with,” Hoyt said.
Mwaduma said she will always miss her sister, but is glad she’s with her mother again in heaven.
“It makes me at least happy she gets to be with the one person that could help her – her mom. That’s the only reason why I’m learning to get through this because she’s with the person that loved her the most – the person that gave birth to her, and I’m just really glad she brought her into my life,” Mwaduma said.
Dilunga’s case is still open, and family are waiting on the final results of her autopsy.
If you know anything about Dilunga’s final days, the family asks you to reach out to KCPD to help.