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Friday, November 21, 2014

Expert challenges investigation of scene of Lennon Lacy's death

Posted by on Fri, Nov 21, 2014 at 3:22 PM

An expert pathologist hired to review local and state authorities’ handling of Lennon Lacy’s purported suicide in August released a report Thursday, criticizing many of the actions taken by local law enforcement.

Dr. Christena Roberts, who was retained by the North Carolina NAACP at the request of Lacy’s family, met with the state’s Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Deborah Radisch, who conducted the original autopsy on the Bladenboro teenager’s body.

Roberts raised challenges to the way Lacy’s body was handled by law enforcement officers when he was discovered hanging from a trailer park swing set, the way the local medical examiner was treated by officers at the scene and the way evidence was collected.

Dr. Radisch was not provided with photographs or the dimensions of the swing set, without which she would have been unable to determine the feasibility of a scenario in which Lacy could have hung himself. Roberts' report notes “there was no item present at the scene that Lennon could have stood on, applied the noose and then kicked away,” and there were no swings hanging from the swing set that Lacy— who was 5 feet, nine inches tall and weighed more than 200 pounds— could have used to elevate himself the seven-foot crossbeam of the swing set.

Furthermore, no photographs were taken at the scene of Lacy’s death. According to the local medical examiner identified in the report as “Mr. Kinlaw,” SBI officials at the scene wouldn’t allow him to take pictures and threatened to confiscate his camera if he did. Kinlaw also stated that local officers didn’t want an autopsy performed on Lacy’s body and that he had to order one from the local District Attorney’s office.

Kinlaw noted that Lacy had on white sneakers with no laces, in a size 10.5; Lacy wore a size 12, and had been wearing gray shoes on the night he died. Dr. Radisch reports that the shoes were not on Lacy’s body when he arrived at her office. She noted it was not the usual practice for police to remove items of clothing before transporting a body and that SBI officials did not explain to her why the shoes were missing.

Radisch said that her determination of Lacy’s manner of death as a suicide was based on the information she received from law enforcement and the local medical examiner when she received Lacy’s body. She said if she had received information from an independent investigative agency that suggested the manner of Lacy’s death could have been anything other than a suicide, she would likely change the manner of death to “undetermined.”

The report states there are also “a number of concerning factors about the apparent noose” used in the hanging. In photographs of two belts fashioned into a noose, a black belt “was not consistent with the one worn by Lennon. The blue belt is reported to be consistent with a belt worn by a male who resided in the mobile home where Lennon was last known alive.”

The autopsy report notes that there was no evidence of blunt force trauma or defensive wounds to Lacy’s body, and that the body had been bitten by ants.

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