Report raises issues about probe of teen's hanging death
Posted November 21, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — A pathologist hired by the state chapter of the NAACP is raising concerns about the investigation into a Bladen County 17-year-old's death, which was ruled a suicide.
A report released Friday into the case of Lennon Lee Lacy – found this past summer hanging from a noose on a swing set in Bladenboro – says 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, the report says, and, therefore, she was unable to determine if it was possible for the high school junior to hang himself from it.
Family members and the NAACP, who believe Lacy's death was a "race-based homicide," have called for a federal investigation. They believe local authorities rushed to reach a conclusion and did not fully investigate the case.
Bladen County's district attorney, however, said earlier this week that he believes the investigation was thorough and welcomes a federal review.
Among the issues in Dr. Christena Roberts' report is the location of the noose on the swing set.
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, Roberts wrote.
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, Roberts added.
There was also a concern about the noose – a double-hole black canvas belt tied to a blue canvas belt.
The report states that the black belt was "not consistent" with one Lacy wore, and the blue one "is reported to be consistent" with a belt worn by someone who lived in the trailer park next to where Lacy's body was found.
According to a timeline included in her report, Roberts said Lacy was last seen at home around 10:30 p.m. the day before his death when he told his parents he was going for a walk.
At some point that evening, according to the report, he and his girlfriend had an argument, and he went to the mobile home park.
A woman called 911 around 7:25 a.m. the next day when she found Lacy suspended with his feet several inches off the ground.
Photos of Lacy's body showed he was wearing a pair of size 10.5 shoes, even though the shoes he had on the previous night were gray size 12s. Those shoes, Roberts noted, were not on the body when he arrived at the state medical examiner's office, even though the local medical examiner reported placing them with the body.
There was also conflicting information about why photos were not taken at the scene.
The medical examiner reported that the SBI would not let him and threatened to take his camera if he did. Case notes, however, indicate no photos were taken because crime scene technicians were at a homicide scene.