Local News

Legal issue will keep family from burying slain Goldsboro teen

Posted October 4, 2012

— The family of a kidnapped Goldsboro teen found dead last month will have to wait to bury his remains after a judge ordered Thursday that the state medical examiner cannot yet release his body.

Phoebe Dee, an attorney for Jerome Jila Butts, 19, one of four men charged with murder in the death of Kennedy Fitzgerald McLaurin, filed motions this week asking Judge Arnold Jones to order the state preserve McLaurin's body until the defense is satisfied that no more forensic testing needs to be performed

It's unclear how long that will take.

Typically, the medical examiner's office turns over remains to family members once it has completed its examination of the body, but the issue centers on the question of whether human remains are evidence – something the North Carolina Court of Appeals is currently considering in a Durham murder case.

In that case, a judge dismissed a murder charge against Michael Dorman after the remains of his alleged victim were prematurely cremated.

Dorman's defense attorney argued that they never had the chance to conduct tests on the remains and that Dorman was deprived of his right to a fair trial.

State attorneys appealed the judge's decision, arguing that evidence is generated from remains and that a body, itself, is not evidence.

Arnold said Thursday that he will revisit his ruling after the final autopsy report is complete and DNA test results in the case are available. If necessary, he said, he will wait on the Appeals Court ruling in the Dorman case.

"We'll take it as it comes," Arnold said. "I don't want to put a time frame on it. This may be a new issue. I don't know at this point."

McLaurin's family was in court for the hearing. They declined to comment afterward.

Investigators have not released the cause or circumstances surrounding McLaurin's death but have said that the crime was neither random nor gang-related.

McLaurin was kidnapped Sept. 9 near his home, prompting state authorities to issue an Amber Alert. Police searched for nearly two weeks before finding his body Sept. 22 on a farm in Seven Springs, about a half-hour southeast of Goldsboro.

Butts, as well as Leonard Eugene Joyner, 21, and Kevin Edward Smith, 18, were arrested Sept. 21. A fourth suspect, Curtis Etheridge, 17, was arrested Sept. 22.

They are being held in the Wayne County jail without bond.

37 Comments

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  • this is fdup Oct 5, 4:04 p.m.

    A few questions:
    1. who is paying for the storage of the remains? The state? The family? The defense?
    2. would 'nt the medical examiner's report cover this?
    3. If the defense needed extra tests should 'nt these be done without delay?
    4. How far have we fallen as a society when we do not even allow a family to bury the dead in a timely respectable manner?

  • jhk0704 Oct 5, 11:45 a.m.

    Judge Hudson didnt open the door. He granted a defense motion to preserve the body and % DAYS LATER Cline knowing this allowed the body to be released and creamated. Hudson did what he had to. I dont agree with it but the alternative of allowing the prosecution to9 destroy the body before it is examined is A WHOLE LOT MORE FRIGHTENING!!!!

  • jhk0704 Oct 5, 11:43 a.m.

    I know it is a awful thing...but legally its the right decision. The defense has the right to examine the body. Just be glad this isnt Durham or the DA would allow it to be creamated and the case would get thrown out. Praying for the family through this whole ordeal. What a tragedy. I know its hard but just let the legal process take its course and those 4 heartless criminals will get convicted and sent away forever like they should!

  • anneonymousone Oct 5, 11:12 a.m.

    As horrid as waiting may be for the family and friends of Kennedy McLaurin, the worst has already happened; he has been stolen from them, and they must deal with this loss for the rest of their lives. My best thoughts are with them.

    If there are any tests that can reveal more about how he was murdered and by whom, then, as annoying as it may be, ultimately it is better for the tests to be done.

    Sadly enough, there will be sorrow enough to last for years.

  • PracticalMagick Oct 5, 11:02 a.m.

    This is atrocious; hasn't this family suffered enough, and now they have to put off his burial to "assist" the legal team defending their son's murderers? Unbelievable. ~~larterl

    EXACTLY! Thank you!

  • Fireflies Rock Oct 5, 10:24 a.m.

    Any necessary further testing needs to be done IMMEDIATELY, so the body can be released to the family. This is atrocious; hasn't this family suffered enough, and now they have to put off his burial to "assist" the legal team defending their son's murderers? Unbelievable.

  • piene2 Oct 5, 9:46 a.m.

    "And to the joker(s) who are making the inappropriate comments, Karma's a you know what, but I hope you never have to read comments like that should you lose a loved one.
    PracticalMagick"

    At least in our instance that is not likely to happen. We are not into obsessing over dead bodies. We would rather obsess over the living. After death our corpses go to the nearest medical school where they can be put to good use.

  • PracticalMagick Oct 5, 9:05 a.m.

    Just get the testing done ASAP, return his remains to the family and let them finally start to heal.

    And to the joker(s) who are making the inappropriate comments, Karma's a you know what, but I hope you never have to read comments like that should you lose a loved one.

  • westernwake1 Oct 4, 7:56 p.m.

    This is very sad for the family. Hopefully this delay will ensure that the murderers do not escape conviction for their crime.

  • piene2 Oct 4, 6:01 p.m.

    "This is ridiculous in my opinion. An autopsy should suffice. I feel sorry for this family."

    Last month everyone was screeching at the top of their lungs because a body was not available for further testing and now everyone is screeching at the top of their lungs because it is being retained. Please make up your collective minds. You are giving me a headache with all that screeching.

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