While social media can be overwhelming and frustrating at times, when used in the right way, it can really be informative and make a difference. I was reminded of this over the weekend while scrolling through Instagram. A guy who I follow shared a story from the Guardian that detailed the death of Lennon Lacy, a 17-year-old teen from Bladenboro, North Carolina who was found hanged on Friday, August 29. I hadn’t heard of this story anywhere else, but I knew it was a story that needed to be shared.
According to his father, Larry Walton, he was one of the last people to see Lacy alive. Around midnight on that Friday, Walton got up to get a glass of water and saw his son, in his room, preparing his football uniform for the first football game of the season–which would happen later that day. A starting linebacker on the varsity team at his local high school, Lacy had reportedly been training all summer to do big things on the field. He hoped to have such an impact that he would get a football scholarship for college, and find his way into the NFL in the future. Lacy had big dreams and plans for himself, but he wasn’t able to see them through. According to Walton, after telling Lacy he should to go to bed, he heard the front door open and close. Walton didn’t think much of it and went back to bed. But the next morning, Lacy’s mother found her son’s uniform still on his bed and the police at her door. The teen, known in the neighborhood for being a polite and “well-mannered” young man involved at his church, was found hanging from a wooden swing set a quarter mile away from his family’s home in Bladenboro, near a trailer park.
Since that day, the family has been trying to get answers, answers that the police don’t seem to have and don’t seem to be working hard enough to find. According to Lacy’s mother, Claudia, the teen had indentations and abrasions to his face. The mortician who embalmed his body said that the marks on the teen (including a large knot above his eye), and abrasions he saw on the young man’s arms, reminded him of “corpses he had embalmed where the deceased had been killed in a bar-room fight.”
When his body was found, the size 12 shoes Lacy bought days before for school and had been wearing weren’t on his feet. Instead, he was found with white 10.5 sneakers on his feet. Also, the family says that police didn’t swab underneath Lacy’s fingernails for evidence of a possible scuffle with someone else. If that wasn’t enough, since Lacy’s funeral, his burial plot has been desecrated. The flowers placed there were taken and thrown on the side of the road near the cemetery, and a small hole was dug in the corner of his grave. So many red flags, and yet, District Attorney Jon David and the police in Bladenboro have ruled out foul play: “to date we have not received any evidence of criminal wrongdoing surrounding the death.”
But the family says suicide can’t be possible. Lacy didn’t have any issues that they know of when it comes to depression or mental illness over the years. And despite losing a great uncle he was close to right before his own death, Lacy’s mother says he grieved in the same way the rest of his family had, but carried on with his preparation for the football season.
“I know my son. The second I saw him I knew he couldn’t have done that to himself – it would have taken at least two men to do that to him.”
His brother, Pierre, agrees: “If my brother wanted to take his own life, I can’t understand why he would do it in such an exposed place. This feels more like he was put here as a public display – a taunting almost.”
As the Guardian piece points out, Bladenboro is a town that’s about 80% white, 18% black, and is even called “Crackertown” by residents. About 86 people were hanged in Bladenboro between 1882 and 1968. And a couple of neighbors who eventually embraced Lacy (because he was a young man who had friends of all backgrounds), were once ordered by police to take down confederate flags and a sign that said “Ni**ers Keep Out” in front of their home a few years ago. They said that their own son had been pushed around by some kids and in a state of anger, the man of the house, Dewey Sykes, put the sign and flags up. Thinking back on his decisions, Sykes feels bad. “I regret it now.”
Bladenboro is known for racial tension.
And then there’s the fact that the 17-year-old had been involved with Michelle Brimhall–a 31-year-old white woman and mother who left her husband in February before moving to Bladenboro, where she met Lacy. For those unaware, the age of consent is 16 in North Carolina. The two were involved with one another for the last few months, and Brimhall is another person who doesn’t think that the teen would kill himself.
“No, Lennon did not kill himself. He loved his mother so much, he would never put her through that. I want to know who did it. I want them to suffer.”
The police say that an investigation is ongoing and that Lacy’s death is being given “top priority” when it comes to police investigations.
But the reality is, the family, and many others, don’t feel that the police are asking the right questions. If they had, and all signs then pointed to a suicide, the family says that they would accept that. But they say that more than a month after Lacy’s death, they still don’t have answers. The family’s lawyer, Allen Rogers, believes that the police aren’t ready to deal with the realities of race, and what really could be going on in this case.
“I don’t believe that a thorough investigation has been done, and within that investigation, the evidence the police has compiled is not sufficient to rule out foul play. The concern is that there’s been a rush to judgment – a desire quickly to settle any issue over the cause of death.
Given the sensitivity of the issues here, it’s much easier to put this in a box marked ‘suicide’ than ask the tough questions. I’m afraid that politics have held back the investigation.”
As Rev. William Barber of the NAACP chapter in North Carolina put it, “Don’t ask these parents to bury their 17-year-old son and then act as though everything is normal. Don’t chastise them for asking the right questions. All they want is the truth.”
Now that you know about Lennon Lacy’s story, please continue to share it and get the word out. The family deserves answers and closure. This situation and story, is one we shouldn’t keep quiet about.