Hanging death of Bladenboro teen attracting more national attention

The August death of a Bladenboro teenager found hanging from a swingset in a rural part of southeastern North Carolina is continuing to attract national attention.

Journalist Katie Couric recently profiled Lacy’s death, as part of her new reporting project with Yahoo and as the nation reacts to recent decisions not to pursue criminal charges in the deaths of two other black men, Eric Garner of New York and Mike Brown of Ferguson, Mo. (Click here to watch Couric’s video report.)

Lennon Lacy, 17, found dead in Bladenboro in August.

The Guardian, a newspaper based in London, wrote about Lacy’s death in October.

Lacy’s Aug. 29 death has been treated as a suicide, and local authorities have said they don’t have any evidence that he was killed.

But Lacy’s parents have said the high school football player showed no prior signs of depression at the time of his death.

The teenager, who is black, was found near a predominantly-white trailer park in the small town in Bladen County. Lacy, a star high school football player, had been in a romantic relationship with a 31-year-old white woman at the time of his death, and his family now question whether he could have been killed by someone angered by the interracial relationship.

The family, backed by the Rev. William Barber II of the North Carolina NAACP chapter have asked for a federal hate crime investigation into Lacy’s death.

The Fayetteville Observer reported earlier this week that the State Bureau of Investigation has exhausted all of its leads into Lacy’s death, and that the investigation remains with the Ben David, the elected district attorney for Bladen County.

From Couric’s interview:

When Lennon’s mother, Claudia, arrived on the scene, she felt in her heart that he had not committed suicide. “When I looked at him I knew — I said — I said to myself — I said, ‘He didn’t do this… He couldn’t have.’”

Local police ruled it a suicide, and the autopsy report recorded the cause of death as “asphyxia due to hanging.” The autopsy report also noted that Lennon “had been depressed over the recent death of his uncle.” Lennon’s brother Pierre disputes that, asking, “How do you psychologically evaluate a dead person? He was just too happy for life.”

The Lacy family says the police rushed to rule Lennon’s death a suicide despite their many unanswered questions such as the shoes Lennon was found wearing – they were a size and a half too small.  They say all they want is a thorough investigation before any conclusions are reached.

The president of the North Carolina NAACP, the Rev. William Barber II, says, “The call was made so quick. And what concerns us about that is that if Lennon Lee Lacy was white and was found hanging in a … predominantly black trailer park that was known to have some drug involvement and other things, we just don’t believe that it would have been this quick rush to say it was a suicide. It would have been a very, very, very intense investigation.”

The Bladen County District Attorney’s office said in a statement, “While the investigation is ongoing, and no final determinations have been made, to date we have not received any evidence of criminal wrongdoing surrounding the death.”


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Hanging death of Bladenboro teen attracting more national attention