On Monday night, lawyers Al McSurely and Allen Rogers met with Claudia Lacy and Larry Walton to discuss the next step in the investigation into what McSurely called “the probable murder” of Lacy and Walton’s 17-year-old son, Lennon Lacy.
While the parents of boys like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis waged uphill battles hoping to see their sons’ killers put behind bars, the biggest obstacle for Lennon’s family is the fact that police in their small North Carolina town insist that their son took his own life.
In August, Lennon was found hanging by his neck from a swing set in the middle of a trailer park near his home in Bladenboro, N.C. Authorities quickly ruled out foul play in his death and have since labeled it a suicide. But Lennon’s parents have met the reports with disbelief, as have many of Bladenboro’s black residents.
McSurely, an attorney working with the NAACP’s North Carolina chapter and Lennon’s family, told The Root that he and the family are looking to find out who killed Lennon and that they “have a rough idea of who some of those people might be.”
“What we’re trying to decide now, after talking to several witnesses who have come forward to us, is how we’re going to play that with the DA,” said McSurely, adding that the family may take the case to the FBI or U.S. Department of Justice. “It’s not like Ferguson or Trayvon’s case in the sense that here, we don’t know who shot him. In this case, somebody strangled him and took his body over there and … hung him up there in the middle of the night.”
Lennon’s autopsy was released last week by Chief Medical Examiner Deborah Radisch, and all signs pointed to suicide. But far from assuaging his family’s concerns, the autopsy, like every part of the investigation so far, has made them more suspicious.
Radisch noted in the autopsy’s “summary and interpretation” section that Lennon had attended the funeral of his uncle the day before his death, indicating that Lennon “had been depressed over the recent death of his uncle.” This finding confused and upset the family because they say it has no relevance to physical and forensic-analysis findings.
“An autopsy cannot determine whether a person was depressed—you can’t tell that from physical signs, so why was it put in the report?” Lennon’s brother, Pierre Lacy, told The Guardian. “That’s a red flag to me—it’s not factual.”
The family also noted that missing entirely from the autopsy was the fact that Lennon was wearing white shoes, with the laces missing, that were a size-and-a-half too small for him. His family insists that on the night of his death, Lennon was wearing a pair of black Jordan sneakers that he had recently purchased for the start of school. Though the autopsy carefully notes that Lennon was wearing “black socks, a pair of navy blue nylon sports pants, a navy blue nylon short-sleeve shirt and multicolored boxer shorts,” it makes no mention of his shoes.
There were also multiple marks on Lennon’s face and body that have been attributed to ants, despite the fact that he had been hanging only a matter of hours when he was found by a resident of the trailer park. (Listen to the 911 call.) The man who prepared Lennon’s body for burial noted that the marks were more in line with what he’d seen from victims who died in bar fights, pointing to abrasions across both of Lennon’s shoulders and down the insides of both arms. The man also noted facial indentations over both cheeks, Lennon’s chin and his nose.
The teen’s family’s battle is heating up right as a family in Valdosta, Ga., remembers what would have been the 18th birthday of their deceased son, Kendrick Johnson. Kendrick was found last year rolled up in a gym mat at Lowndes High School with his face disfigured. His death was ruled a suicide.
Kendrick’s family insist that he was beaten to death and have been pressing for answers. Almost a year to the day since U.S. Attorney Michael Moore announced that his office would begin a full investigation into the case, Kenneth and Jackie Johnson still have no resolution and there is no end in sight for the investigation. When reached for comment, the Middle Georgia U.S. Attorney’s Office said it was still waiting for the FBI to conclude its investigation.
“But at this point there’s just not any new developments,” said Pamela Lightsey, public information offficer for Middle Georgia.
A representative for the FBI office handling the case, when asked for comment, simply responded that authorities have “nothing to report, nothing to update.”
Kendrick’s mother and father have staged protests near the Valdosta judicial center every week since his death was ruled a suicide. They have sued the school district and even been taken to jail for participating in a demonstration on their son’s behalf. But as it stands today, they, like Claudia Lacy and Larry Walton, are still waiting for answers and still hoping to find some justice for their dead teenage son.
Dion Rabouin is a freelance writer currently based in New York. Follow him on Twitter.