In a few hours, our family will lay our 18 year old son to rest at his memorial servive.
I can’t sleep however, because I am so disturbed by statements apparently released to several media outlets late tonight by KCSO regarding Henry’s preliminary autopsy results – results which I only learned about for the first time after KCSO released them to the media, not because we heard they were ready or had been told of the results ourselves. Shouldn’t family be notified of autopsy results first?
It’s clear to me that KCSO has gone on the offensive with this case after weeks of us begging them to take some action – weeks during which Henry was hospitalized before his death. Given KCSO’s stance, I will now wait to let my lawyer (isn’t it crazy that a crime victim’s family needs their own lawyer?) advise me as to what I can and cannot say publicly going forward. I don’t want to argue publicly with KCSO. I never did. I have huge respect for the hard, underappreciated work that they do every day. I want to work cooperatively with them to investigate and find answers. I want them to communicate proactively and directly with me so we can tell them everything we know and they can share what they know with us.
However, given the way they have gone to the media at this point instead of coming to our family, I will say this:
-My son WAS assaulted badly while engaged in an illegal drug transaction in the 24-48 hours preceding his admission to the ER on April 27. He may have been buying or he may have been selling to support his habit. We aren’t sure. In either case he was clearly in the wrong by the fact that he was engaged in this drug activity, and had he not died, our son should have been fully investigated and held accountable for his own illegal activity -something we told the lead investigator repeatedly. We are IN NO WAY minimizing Henry’s own drug activity. He was a drug addict and he was behaving like one at the time he was assaulted.
However the fact that he was engaged in drug activity did not give anyone the right to beat him up, rob him and leave him with major physical injuries. Were there such injuries? Well, his medical records CLEARLY and CONSISTENTLY refer to the assault and its compounding physical impact on the other causative factor – the drug overdose.
Of course, Henry’s preliminary autopsy – released by KCSO – refers only to the specific cause of death FIVE WEEKS after his hospital admission. On that day, at that time, the cause of death was indeed complications of anoxic brain injury. No one disputes that. But it doesn’t mean that the beating he received had nothing to do with the brain injury in the first place. That’s like saying that someone who dies of heart failure five weeks after a car wreck that damaged his heart died of “heart failure.” That’s what the official autopsy results would say, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Same thing with Henry; the anoxic brain injury was due to drug overdose AND the assault. His complete medical records, as opposed to the preliminary autopsy records alone make this abundantly clear. His doctors are willing and even eager to explain this to KCSO, should someone care to actually ask them.
And to top it off, young people all over Knox County know EXACTLY WHO ASSAULTED HENRY and what happened. These young people and in some cases, their parents have contacted us over the past month to tell us that they have information on the specifics of the assault that they want to share with authorities. I have given all of these leads to the KCSO investigator but as far as I know, the only people he has talked to are the suspects themselves, each of whom (obviously) tell a slightly different story. (Thanks to Cathy and Rich for blogging about the fact that kids around town know who beat Henry and what the circumtances were)
Also, these “friends” and “acquaintances” (that’s how KCSO refers to them when speaking to the media) who “found” Henry near death in their home on the morning of APril 27 declined to call 911 for hours as Henry lay dying and as others begged them to call for help need to be investigated THOROUGHLY. There is much, much, MUCH more to this part of the story. Yet no investigation of this element of the situation has taken place beyond cursory conversations with the “friends” who – not surprisingly – claim they did nothing wrong. How did they know Henry? Why was he in their house? Where did he get the drugs that caused him to OD in their house? Why hasn’t KCSO interviewed the two witnesses who have phone records proving they begged these “friends” for HOURS to call 911 as my son lay unconscious and vomiting on the “friends’” floor on the morning of the 27th?
In short, KCSO should not be publicly asserting that the case is essentially closed as far as they are concerned until they investigate all the evidence and leads (we’ve provided) surrounding this critical element of the factors that led to Henry’s death.
That’s all I can say right now, although there is so much more I want to say. It’s hard to stay silent when KCSO is actively releasing half truths and misleading “facts” to the media (one example being their assertion that I haven’t provided any useful leads to them. That’s simply false.)
We will have justice for Henry. It’s obviously going to be a slow, unpleasant process. I never, ever wanted to criticize KCSO and I still don’t. I just want to be treated with respect and I want my son’s investigation handled aggressively and thoroughly.
KCSO should not be communicating with our family only through the media. They should be calling us, inviting us in to discuss the case and telling us what direction the investigation has taken. They have never met with us in person EVEN ONE TIME, although we have made repeated calls to the lead investigator over the past five weeks. He did sometimes return our calls, but mostly to tell us that there really wasn’t any case as far as he was concerned because Henry had overdosed on drugs and that was that.
For today, I will take a deep breath and try to let go of the frustration I feel at this moment about how this is being handled by law enforecement and instead focus on spending a day celebrating my son’s life with everyone who loved him, and on caring for and consoling the three devastated younger siblings his death left behind.
But this isn’t the end. This is one mama – like others before me - who won’t be intimidated or by silenced.