Local News

FBI to review Bladen teen's hanging death

Posted December 12, 2014 11:20 a.m. EST
Updated December 12, 2014 5:55 p.m. EST

— 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.