Local News

FBI to review Bladen teen's hanging death

Posted December 12, 2014

— FBI investigators plan to look into the hanging death of a 17-year-old in Bladen County that local authorities ruled a suicide.

District Attorney Jon David said Friday that he requested the FBI investigation after the family of Lennon Lee Lacy repeatedly called for an outside review.

Lacy was found last summer hanging from a noose fashioned from two belts and tied to a swing set in Bladenboro. Family members and NAACP officials have called his death a "possible race-based homicide" and said local authorities rushed to reach a conclusion and didn't fully investigate the case.

"We want to be thorough, we want to be fair, and we're going to know at some point when we have enough information to make a thorough decision," David said during a news conference. "I was guarded making a determination in this case when there are people outside of the investigation who are claiming to have important information that we're not having access to."

A pathologist hired by the state chapter of the NAACP found that North Carolina's chief medical examiner, Dr. Deborah Radisch, reached her conclusion based partly on information from local law enforcement and the local medical examiner.

Investigators never provided Radisch with photos of the swing set, according to the pathologist's report, so she was unable to determine if it was possible for the high school junior to hang himself from it.

Lacy was 5 feet 9 inches tall, while the cross beam on the set was 7.5 feet from the ground. There were no swings attached to the structure, nothing at the scene that he could have stood on, and a grommet that the noose was tied to was nearly 2 feet away from the swing's climbing platform, the report states.

The noose also did not appear long enough for him to have been able to tie it from the platform and still have a loop big enough for him to place it over his head, according to the report.

David has said he believes the investigation was thorough, but some local residents say they think authorities were too quick to call it a suicide.

"In my opinion, that decision was made as soon as they got on site and did not follow up with all the criminal investigation that should have been done in this case," Rev. Johnas Freeman said.

State NAACP President Rev. William Barber said he welcomes the FBI's involvement.

"There are too many questions and contradictions raised by our independent pathology report and stories in the community about the facts, quick conclusions and how the death scene was not protected to leave this case unprobed and unevaluated," Barber said in a statement.

The NAACP is holding a march in Bladenboro on Saturday in to keep public attention on Lacy's death.


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  • Pensive01 Dec 12, 2014

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    I think that the racial aspect isn't that it is possibly a murder because racial hatred but that the investigation was rushed, with a verdict that left a number of unanswered questions. An example of that is the wearing of shoes that were too small and that apparently did not belong to the victim.

  • Mary Zulch Dec 12, 2014
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    Unless there was a valid psychologist or psychiatrist diagnosis...no one had the education or right to make a claim of depression. NO ME could claim such a thing without forensic psychological examination. (Which has not been done). This ME should retire and bake cookies or take care of their yard. This death has been stinking since day one. I am very sure Bladen county knows it was, and, IS wrong. Shame on them. I feel they will be found wrong. I do not know when people will learn one of God's truths...color does not matter to God. If it does to you...you are not a person of God.

  • 426X3 Dec 12, 2014

    Here we go again.

  • Bullcity34 Dec 12, 2014

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    So your saying because he's black police didn't do their job? Racist much? This isn't the 60's so stay out of it

  • Lorna Schuler Dec 12, 2014
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    My heart goes out to this mother. They do raise some very valid questions around this one.

    And yes, I do want to know how the ME can determine someone is depressed when they are dead?

    I didn't see in the interview where either the family or Barber called the death race based (and I do not like Barber), rather it was Katie Couric who consistently brought that up.

    I hope that the investigation finds closure for all. And if it was indeed a homicide that the person/s responsible are prosecuted to the fullest extent.

  • Nan Toppin Dec 12, 2014
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    I was buying the whole suicide theory until I read that he was found wearing someone else's shoes that were two sizes too small for him. And that his family had never seen before. That does not add up. Wondering if whoever killed him decided they wanted his brand new tennis shoes as well.

    I am like everyone else...wanting the truth to come out.

  • justabumer Dec 12, 2014

    I think it's good to investigate this but wish it were possible for it to happen without Barbers' meddling. It's difficult to take it seriously when a racist screams racism.

  • Pamela Yelverton Dec 12, 2014
    user avatar

    I've been following the story from the beginning, since we know people in that area. There are a lot of unaswered questions about his death that should be investigated but the bad thing is that anytime Barber steps in , he puts a bad light on things.

  • downtowner Dec 12, 2014

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    I'm guessing because death by hanging isn't consistent with black on black crime, but it is more consistent with race-based crimes, and of course suicide.

  • lucasd06 Dec 12, 2014

    If the investigators indeed did not fully investigate the case to the extent it needed to be, I'm fully supportive of a second check! If this was a murder and not a suicide, the perpetrators need to be punished! I just don't understand the whole "race-based" thing. A young man has died. If evidence comes to light that it was a racially motivated murder, then pursue it. But don't call it racial unless there's basis for it!