Quawan ‘Bobby’ Charles , 15, was found dead on November 3 in a sugar cane field near the village of Loreauville, Louisiana
The death of a Louisiana teen found in a sugar cane field with a mutilated face is being investigated as a homicide, the sheriff’s office confirmed Saturday.
Quawan ‘Bobby’ Charles, 15, was found dead on November 3 near the village of Loreauville four days after his father reported him missing on October 30 at around 8pm.
Iberia Parish Sheriff Tommy Romero said Saturday that his office is ‘working hard to ensure no stone is left unturned’ in determining what led to the death of the black teen, whose disappearance sparked speculation about racial crime.
Sheriff Romero said footage shows Bobby alone near where he was found. No arrests have been made but investigators are said to have interviewed unidentified people who may have been with Charles before his death.
Quawan is said to have been picked up from his home by white mother and son Janet and Gavin Irvin, 17, on the day he disappeared.
‘We want to remind the public that this is an active, ongoing homicide investigation. We urge anyone who has any additional information which might aid our investigation to come forward and contact the Iberia Parish Sheriff´s Office at 337-369-3711,’ Romero said.
He told The Washington Post ‘any case involving someone found deceased in this manner’ is treated as a homicide investigation.
The Iberia Parish Coroner’s Office announced Friday that drowning appears to be the most likely cause of death of Charles.
‘I want to assure the public that I, and my team, are doing everything we can, and following every lead, to gather evidence into what happened in the untimely death of Quawan ‘Bobby’ Charles,’ Romero said.
‘Any loss of life is a tragedy and that is especially true when it is a young person.
‘Although we believe it is important not to compromise any part of our investigation, we are prepared to release some details so that the public can be assured we are not resting in our effort to find the truth,’ he said.
The teenager’s body was found in a sugar cane field in rural Louisiana on November 3
Quawan was last seen at his father’s home in Baldwin on October 30. His body was found 25 miles north three days later
The coroner’s preliminary autopsy report had said: ‘At this time there is no evidence of ante mortem trauma’ – pre-death injury – to Charles.
‘Any cuts on his face were made as part of the autopsy and other damage was probably caused by aquatic animals, since his body was found in water.’
Evidence of drowning included muddy water in his airways, ‘hyper inflated lungs’ and water in his sinuses, according to the report signed by the coroner, Dr. Carl Ditch.
The final report is pending final autopsy results, toxicology and a police investigation, it said.
The teen´s family filed a missing persons report October 30 in the St. Mary Parish town of Baldwin. His body was found the evening of November 3 about 20 miles away in woods near the Iberia Parish town of Loreauville.
When police arrived at his father’s home in Baldwin, they suggested to the boy’s father, Kenneth Jacko, that he’d gone to a football game and, according to the family, were dismissed.
Quawan’s parents later found out that he had been picked up that day from his home by Janet Irvin and her 17-year-old son Gavin, who are white. Quawan’s parents say they don’t know the Irvins and do not know how he knew them. They never gave him permission to go with them.
Gavin told the family that Quawan left their trailer park home on his own on October 30 and didn’t say where he was going. Janet has not spoken to his family. They have now been evicted from their trailer park home, The Washington Post reports.
Romero said investigators have spoken with at least one witness who reportedly saw Charles before his death in the area where he was later found.
‘We have obtained and reviewed video evidence showing Quawan `Bobby´ Charles near that area,’ he said. ‘Video evidence indicates no other individuals present with Quawan `Bobby´ Charles or anyone else present for some time before, or after, he is seen on the recording.’
Demonstrators and the state NAACP president have called for ‘justice’ for Charles.
A fundraising page set up to raise $15,000 for an independent autopsy and other expenses shows a photo of his face next to one of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was lynched in 1955.
It had brought in more than $244,000 from 12,800 donors as of Saturday.
Quawan’s family say that he is the victim of a hate crime that police are refusing to investigate
Ron Haley, one of three civil rights attorneys representing Charles’ family, said they are awaiting the results of an independent autopsy.
‘We certainly hope that the Sheriff Office and all of the local agencies are putting more energy in solving the mystery of Quawan´s death than they did in trying to find him when he was reported missing,’ Haley said via email in response to Romero’s statement.
‘Though it may appear that the relationship between the Charles family and the local agencies has been adversarial, at the end of the day the family just wants truthful answers so that they know how and why Quawan died regardless of who provides them those answers.’
The boy’s family say the case is not being investigated properly by the sheriff’s department
Quawan’s family are comparing the case to the notorious killing of Till, a 14-year-old who was lynched in 1955 after being falsely accused of offending a white woman.
His mother Roxanne Nelson is demanding answers from Janet Irvin.
‘This is a nightmare. I’ve had to go on a wild goose chase just to get information,’ she told The Associated Press.
At a candlelit vigil for her son, she said: ‘I want the lady who came to get my son without my permission, his dad’s permission, to be held accountable.
‘She took them to her house. He was alive and well when he was here, and now he is dead.’