WSVN — Stephanie remembers this Maria.

Stephanie Michaels: "Maria was bubbly, she was crazy, but she was the funniest person. She would say the craziest things about the craziest things, and it would be hilarious."

Maria and Stephanie were more than friends, they were like family.

Stephanie Michaels: "That was my best friend. She was like my sister."

Notice Stephanie said "was."

Maria Jackson is no longer bubbly, no longer telling funny jokes.

Detective Mynor Cruz: "They had been smelling a foul odor emanating from the landscaping area of the apartment.

Maria had been missing from her Coral Springs apartment for nearly three weeks when her body was discovered in Boca.

The body was concealed in plastic bags, and it was right inside the landscaping, so you really couldn't see until you went looking for it. It was pretty heavy landscaping, right in front of the residence.

Police then started retracing Maria's steps. She was last seen at a Coral Springs Walmart at two in the morning.

Her car was found at her apartment, an apartment which showed no signs of a struggle.

What happened to her, police don't know, but Stephanie knows one thing, Maria had been having financial problems.

Stephanie Michaels: "She needed to come up with that money, otherwise she was going to get kicked out into the street. Then she came up to me and said, 'Stephanie, I want to start dancing."

Exotic dancing made Maria quick cash, but it also left her surrounded by people that she was not used to.

Stephanie Michaels: "Maria would just automatically assume that everybody was great people, and no one does wrong, and the crimes, murders happen in different states."

Apparently, maybe Maria trusted the wrong person, or maybe the wrong person followed her from the club.

Detective Mynor Cruz: "A lot of people knew pieces of her life as to what she was doing, where she was working, but we didn't really find anyone that had a pretty good idea of what was going on in her life. I believe her closest friend was probably Stephanie Michaels.

And Stephanie knows exactly where Maria was headed. The honor student had just gotten an academic scholarship to college and was ready to move on and pursue her dream.

Stephanie Michaels: "She wanted to be a pediatrician. She was great with kids, great with kids."

But she never got that chance, possibly because of a job she took to make some quick money.

Stephanie Michaels: "Stop looking at who she was at the time of her death, she was more than that. Maria Patrice Jackson was more than a stripper, an exotic dancer, a person who worked at a topless bar. I just want people to remember her for what she did, and for the things that she spoke about and her feelings and her morals."

She was a 19-year-old with family, with friends, with hopes and dreams.

Detective Mynor Cruz: "In a case like this you feel, 'What if that were my daughter,' or 'What if that was my wife or sister?' So we all want to see a resolution to this case to find out the answers that her family is looking for and her friends."

And friends who wonder every day, "Is that the person who killed her? Is that the person? Who is that person?"

Stephanie Michaels: "I don't want to say I hate that person because God says not to hate. I have to walk with God. I have to forgive that person because if I don't forgive that person I can't be forgiven for my sins, but that person needs to pay."

Maria paid with her life, and now it's time for her killer to get what they deserve.

If you know who was with Maria the night she disappeared, if you know anything about her murderer, make an anonymous call to Boca Police, or if you believe a murder victim has been forgotten, if you want them to finally get justice, give us a call.

There are so many people who are still out for justice.


Out for JusticeMIAMI-DADE: 305-598-HELPBROWARD: 954-796-HELP


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