FBI to probe death of black N.C. teen found hanged
The FBI has agreed to step in and investigate the August death of a black North Carolina teen found hanging from a swingset in a predominantly white trailer park.
The agency agreed to take on the case after questions raised by the mother of 17-year-old Lennon Lacy and by the North Carolina branch of the NAACP.
Claudia Lacy of Bladenboro , N.C., did not immediately respond to a private message sent to her through social media, but she did say in an essay dictated to The Guardian that she was concerned for her son because he was dating an older white woman. Lacy does not believe the police were involved in her son's death, but she does believe his case was treated as if it did not matter, she said. She told The Guardian that her son was not depressed and that he was respectful and compassionate.
Bladenboro Police Chief Chris Hunt did not immediately respond to a voicemail message left for him Friday night. Hunt has referred all questions to the North Carolina Bureau of Investigation, which has said that all leads in the case were addressed.
William Barber II, the North Carolina NAACP branch president, said he was gratified that more would be brought to light about the death of the high school student and football player who, according to his family, was found hanging by a dog leash and a belt that did not belong to him.
"There must be a thorough investigation," Barber said in a statement. "There are too many questions and contradictions raised by our independent pathology report and stories in the community about facts, quick conclusions, and how the death scene was not protected to leave this case unprobed and unevaluated."
In the Dec. 12 Guardian essay, Claudia Lacy detailed the day that Hunt came to her door and asked her to come identify a body. When she arrived at the trailer park, she saw a police officer wrapping up the crime scene tape. She found that odd because she thought such tape is normally left around a scene for some time to maintain the integrity of evidence. Police then brought her to an ambulance, where she saw a black body bag that held her son, she said.
"I unzipped the bag down to his waist," she told the Guardian. "I was in shock, despair, but I wanted to see what had happened to him. I wanted to know why my son was here, in this desolate place, lying dead in a body bag. As I stepped back out of the vehicle, I spoke out loud and clear. 'Whoever did this,' I said, 'they took him down, because he didn't do this to himself.' "
Lacy said Hunt came to see her four days later and said police found no evidence of wrongdoing and he mentioned suicide.
Lacy said she found a number of problems with the case, including:
- Police never inspected her son's room and never asked to see his cell phone
- Lennon was found wearing a pair of sneakers that he did not own and that were two sizes too small
- Lennon was not depressed and was looking forward to a football game that night
- Lennon was shy and would not have killed himself in such a public area
Both the Bladen County, N.C., coroner and medical examiner have said they initially looked at suicide as a cause of death because of the other's conclusion.
Contributing: Associated Press