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Mother hires lawyer to challenge investigation into son's drowning

Friday, June 21, 2013 3:03 PM
Last updated Saturday, June 22, 2013 2:43 AM
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The mother of an 8-year-old Hephzibah boy who drowned in April has hired an Atlanta law firm, possibly to sue the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and have a “higher agency” reopen the investigation.

Renee Little, a lawyer at Forrest B. Johnson & Asso­ciates, confirmed Friday that Jeannette Stevens has retained the firm to represent her “in regards to the loss of her son,” Jon Stevens.She declined to elaborate.

Stevens said she hopes to get 1,000 people to sign an online petition and possibly challenge the case in civil court.

“I had no other choice. This investigation is no longer a criminal case,” Stevens said. “I want to know what happened to my child.”

Richmond County Sheriff Rich­ard Roundtree upheld his office’s decision to close its investigation after the state medical examiner ruled the boy died as a result of an accidental drowning.

Neighbors of the Stevens family had written him to express concerns about the “many inconsistencies” surrounding the collection of evidence and credibility of witness statements.

“I have confidence in my investigators and I, too, have reviewed the case and have spoken to Ms. Stevens on several occasions and none of the information you have provided is significantly new and cannot be considered evidence of a criminal act,” Roundtree wrote in response. “I realize that (many people) may have (their) own theories that there is some sort of foul play involved, but there is no evidence to support that and please be open to the
possibility that you may been wrong and allow Ms. Stevens to grieve properly and find peace in her own way.”

Maynard Eaton, a spokesman for the Southern Chris­tian Leadership Conference, which threatened to bring a “national movement” to Augusta if the sheriff’s office did not conduct a thorough investigation, said Thursday that the civil rights organization met with Roundtree on May 21 and is “no longer involved in the case.”

For much of the past week, Stevens and her lawyers have been compiling a civil case against Roundtree, obtaining 80 pages of records from the sheriff’s office. The packet includes photographs, autopsy reports, investigative notes, interview worksheets and news articles.

The most recent document added to the file is an autopsy by Jacqueline Martin, the deputy chief medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. She concluded after reviewing the case file and Jon’s family history that the cause of death was accidental drowning.

Jon was last seen between 6:45 and 7:15 p.m. April 13 at his neighbor’s Hunters Mill house helping his 11-year-old best friend and two 16-year-old boys clean its in-ground pool for the summer, according to the final report filed by Investigator Ashley Pletcher, the case’s lead detective.

Pletcher stated that the two teens had been working on the pool for four days to earn an extra $25 while on spring break.

According to police interviews and surveillance footage, one adult was at the home about 5:45 p.m. when Jon entered the residence but left at 6:36 p.m. to do some bookkeeping at work. He reportedly reminded Jon and his 11-year-old child that they were not allowed in the pool and were to disturb the older boys from cleaning
only if they needed something.

In a deposition, the 11-year-old friend said he and Jon grew bored and decided to see how the cleaning was going and get into the pool if the teenagers did not object.

The friend got into the pool to help clean and told Jon – known to be a nonswimmer – that he could get in if he stayed in the shallow end, which was 4 feet deep.

The friend went underwater several times before moving toward the 10-foot-deep end – described as cold, muddy and difficult for breathing – to help the older boys clean.

The 11-year-old said that during the first of four dives he made to the bottom of the deep end to vacuum debris he saw Jon still standing near the stairs. On his last dive, the boy said, he heard a noise that sounded like the latch of a metal gate.

After he surfaced, he and the older boys, who were also diving to the bottom, noticed Jon was gone and thought he had gone home, according to the deposition.

The three children remained in the pool for 30 to 45 minutes more and got out about 8 p.m.

Jeannette Stevens reported her son missing at 9:35 p.m. The Richmond County Dive Team was called at 11:30 p.m. and entered the “murky” pool at 1 a.m., unable to see more than an inch in front of them, according to investigator’s reports.

Jon was found 20 minutes later in the center of the deep end, with no pulse or injuries, the report said.

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absolutelymadison
29
Points
absolutelymadison 06/21/13 - 06:56 pm
3
6
This case needs to be reopen...more Questions.....

The only thing that Ms. Stevens wants is the answer to why her son Jon was found in the Everett pool. The truth has not been told nor has it been properly investigated. Ms. Stevens back ground has been question, but not the parent of the home in question (pool owners). The official documents state these Children (two16 years old and the 11 year old) stayed in the pool an additional 30 to 45 min and were vacuuming the bottom of the pool and picking up debris from the bottom of the pool after they though 8 year old Jon went home did they not come across his body, if so did they panic and just not report it? How is it the boys heard a gate shut if they were under water and had a vacuum in use cleaning the bottom of the pool? Next question if they had been cleaning the pool for at least 4 days as stated in the Final police report why was the pool still in very poor condition? There are security videos have they been taken as evidence, not just copied (a copy will not show full details if it has been tampered with) I believe that there needs to be a follow up investigation with a new investigator.

Fiat_Lux
15005
Points
Fiat_Lux 06/21/13 - 08:07 pm
9
0
I just don't think this is going to turn out well for anyone

I hope if the reality is different than what the coroner has ruled it to be that it does come to light. But after loads of county money has been spent to give this poor mom closure, if nothing else is revealed about her child's demise, I hope she can let it go and surrender him and this tragedy to the loving arms of the Lord.

RMSHEFF
15369
Points
RMSHEFF 06/21/13 - 08:44 pm
3
0
What exactly does the mom

What exactly does the mom think may have happened? Does she think these other boys are involved in some way?

whyme
1594
Points
whyme 06/21/13 - 09:08 pm
3
0
answers

I heard Ms. Stevens express her concerns on the radio and I can see how she has questions. However, I'm wondering if she has had a chance to sit down with the sheriff or investigator with her list and they have given her specific responses and they may or may not be acceptable? I'm just seeing that they spoke with her and are sorry for her loss but what actually has transpired is not clear. May peace be with everyone involved.

nocnoc
40500
Points
nocnoc 06/21/13 - 09:46 pm
4
1
Heck even the Southern

Heck even the Southern Chris­tian Leadership Conference
ducked out on this one.

JRC2024
8285
Points
JRC2024 06/21/13 - 09:47 pm
6
0
Bad things happen and this is

Bad things happen and this is one of them. Sheriff Roundtree would not have any reason to hide evidence nor would the investigators. If Ms. Stevens sues the county she should be ready to get countersued for all the expenses the county has to pay. Even the SCLC has backed off.

Pops
7552
Points
Pops 06/21/13 - 10:09 pm
4
1
Money

Money.....Money

JRC2024
8285
Points
JRC2024 06/21/13 - 10:11 pm
4
1
Pops you are so right.

Pops you are so right.

scoopdedoop64
2354
Points
scoopdedoop64 06/21/13 - 11:49 pm
4
2
Pops is right!

its the way some people are wired...somebody always has to be at fault. If something bad happens..see if you can get money out of it...sue sue sue! Its part of the way some people and cultures are raised.

corgimom
30218
Points
corgimom 06/22/13 - 06:05 am
5
0
I have the deepest sympathy

I have the deepest sympathy for the mother, but I don't see any reason to think that her son was murdered. And I think it is horrific that she is accusing children of murder.

But the part about the kids were bored, so they went out to the pool, even though they had been told not to...that sounds EXACTLY what an 11 year old and an 8 year old would do. They always want to hang around the older kids and do what the older kids are doing, it makes sense.

As to why the pool was still dirty after 4 days, that's because you had kids doing it, you put two teenage boys together, very little gets done.

There aren't any "questions". The mother thought that her son was afraid of water, so that he wouldn't go into the pool. But he did. She just can't accept that this is just was a terrible accident.

I am sure that the owner of the house has already wished a million times that he had sent Jon home when he left.

seenitB4
84421
Points
seenitB4 06/22/13 - 07:42 am
5
0
Roundtree

The Sheriff's job isn't always pretty....sad situation for all.

ColCo
656
Points
ColCo 06/22/13 - 07:55 am
2
0
Where were the adults?

From the way this reads, an 11 year old was left to supervise an 8 year old, if you need a crime to investigate, that's the one that needs to be prosecuted. In the articles and posts nobody has mentioned a possible motive as to why two sixteen year old pool cleaners would murder an eight year old boy. I understand the mother's feelings, but this is an example of why you can't leave young kids to fend for themselves, they can and will get into trouble almost every time.

absolutelymadison
29
Points
absolutelymadison 06/22/13 - 08:38 am
1
0
Caveat Lecture..

The mother is not suing the Sheriff Dept, She has met with officials here in Augusta and Atlanta they all do not agree. She is not accusing the boys of murder. She simple believes that they know what happen and would like to know what happen herself ( this can be viewed as manslaughter not murder). In my opinion if the boys were in the pool from 30- 45 mins after last seeing her son then perhaps they do know. Give her peace and tell how the accident occurred. This will not bring back her son but she can find peace in the truth. For all you God fairing people money is not an issue, the truth is the only peace she can get. Their neighborhood was a family of six years (the neighborhood will be 8 years old in November) this is were the ball has been dropped when no one will or has talk to her or has even said they are sorry about her lost. She did not express her concerns until May 6; so why is it the lovely neighbors did not speak to her before then. May Gods truth be revealed and forgiveness to all involved. The truth will come in Gods time this is a fact.

allhans
23471
Points
allhans 06/22/13 - 08:57 am
1
0
How much more is a sheriff to

How much more is a sheriff to do
"“I have confidence in my investigators and I, too, have reviewed the case and have spoken to Ms. Stevens on several occasions and none of the information you have provided is significantly new and cannot be considered evidence of a criminal act,” Roundtree wrote in response.

to tell the truth1
123
Points
to tell the truth1 06/22/13 - 11:13 am
2
2
New Investigation

I too agree with absolutely Madison, the first time I read about in a previous article about the other boys stating they heard what sounded like a gate closing while under water ????? I am a swimmer and the only thing I can remember hearing while under water is the water clogging up my ears.. This surveillance taping from the security camera, has it been analyzed to see if there was some possible tampering? Maybe some of you posters wouldn't have the same attitude with your comments if this were your child. Yes I have heard, if it my child, this would not have happened. Step out of your PERFECT world for a few seconds and step into REALITY, It could possibly happen to your child.

triscuit
2954
Points
triscuit 06/22/13 - 01:01 pm
1
0
As a pool owner, if a pool is

As a pool owner, if a pool is filthy enough to have debris in the bottom and muddy...no one should be going in it, much less submerging themselves UNDERWATER. We're there chemicals in the pool? You do not need to be underwater and submerged to vacuum a pool. And you can clean a dirty backyard pool in 2 days with the correct chemicals and a vac and strainer, without getting in there. I think something is amiss here and that owner is an idiot for letting a pool get into that bad of shape to state with. However, that also is a very long time to leave that child unsupervised. Sad outcome for both sides.

Sweet son
9986
Points
Sweet son 06/22/13 - 01:28 pm
0
1
It's incredible that there is no such thing anymore as a

terrible accident! In our current society which always tries to defer blame to someone else this woman is the most responsible of all. She failed to properly manage "her" child and the result was tragic. She should thank all of the public servants who have worked on the case and move on with her grieving process if she is capable.

allhans
23471
Points
allhans 06/22/13 - 01:34 pm
0
1
I don't recall anyone saying

I don't recall anyone saying that their heads were under water.

triscuit
2954
Points
triscuit 06/22/13 - 04:13 pm
1
0
Allhans..

"The friend went underwater several times before moving toward the 10-foot-deep end – described as cold, muddy and difficult for breathing – to help the older boys clean"...from above article

absolutelymadison
29
Points
absolutelymadison 06/27/13 - 05:11 am
0
0
Sweet son & allhands

To sweet son the child was though to be with family as the other child played at his house as much as he played as his. Both boys spent many hours in the care of the other parents (they were best friends) because they were both responsible for those children when in one anothers home. To All hands is it possible to dive under water of a 10 ft pool without putting your head under water? This is probably an accident, but can someone tell how it occurred? An accident is something witness by someone.

corgimom
30218
Points
corgimom 06/22/13 - 05:11 pm
0
0
An 11 year old THOUGHT that

An 11 year old THOUGHT that he heard the gate latch click.

He didn't say "I know beyond all doubt that I heard it click", he told the truth and said WHAT HE THOUGHT AT THE TIME.

He's an 11 year old kid, for corn's sake!

"he heard a noise that sounded like the latch of a metal gate". That's what he said, because yes, that's what an 11 year old child would think.

He heard A NOISE and thought it was the gate and that the child had left, which is a perfectly normal, natural thing for him to think.

Nobody had any criminal intent in any of this, and again, to accuse children of murder without any evidence whatsoever is appalling.

An accident is something that doesn't happen deliberately or without intent, not "something witness by someone".

People die all the time in accidents that weren't witnessed by anyone.

corgimom
30218
Points
corgimom 06/22/13 - 05:21 pm
1
0
But you know, I'm not

But you know, I'm not everybody, but as a mother, as a grandmother-

I wouldn't let my child play anywhere that there was a pool, where no adults were present, even if they only left once in a while. Ever.

But if he did, and he went missing at 9:00 pm, by 9:05 I would've been in that pool myself, searching every inch of it, no matter how cold, dirty, or nasty it was. I wouldn't have cared. That would've been the first place I would've looked. And if I had been told that yes, he had been in the pool earlier, I would've searched even harder.

Pools and children are like magnets and steel. Pools are attractive nuisances and children are drawn to them, no matter what the adults say, no matter what the adults believe.

Such a terrible tragedy.

corgimom
30218
Points
corgimom 06/22/13 - 05:23 pm
0
0
Triscuit, ever gone swimming

Triscuit, ever gone swimming in a lake, a pond, or the ocean?

Those are nasty places and people go in them every day.

We are talking about kids, Triscuit, not adults. Yes, kids fool around and play around and take forever to do a job that would take an adult an hour.

allhans
23471
Points
allhans 06/22/13 - 05:51 pm
0
0
It seems there lots of things

It seems there were lots of things done wrong from all sides but that's not to say that it was not an accident. Let the child rest in peace, please.

Dixieman
13906
Points
Dixieman 06/22/13 - 07:52 pm
1
0
Soggy_Bottom
45
Points
Soggy_Bottom 06/22/13 - 09:31 pm
0
0
Accident, yes

Yes, I believe it was an accident. I also believe kids get scared. And being afraid can make you do silly and unreasonable things. The only money coming out of this is what is going out to search for answers. Money does not bring one back.

What would be the penalty for not telling the truth because you are afraid? Maybe reassurances need to be made. Who knows?

I hope all find closure and soon.

corgimom
30218
Points
corgimom 06/22/13 - 09:47 pm
0
0
Kids, with their lack of

Kids, with their lack of maturity and life experiences, and their immature brains, have faulty reasoning and draw odd conclusions on a lot of things. A LOT of things.

There is no suggestion that they are too afraid to tell the truth. They are telling the truth. It was just an accident. Do you really think that the investigators can't tell when a kid is lying?

lifelongresident
1323
Points
lifelongresident 06/24/13 - 09:20 am
0
0
your son drowns, in a pool,
Unpublished

your son drowns, in a pool, which wasn't secure, at night approx 8 pm, you wait until 9:30 to look for your child and you blame the authorities????? what about the property owner??? well that wont work because they are probably black and she "dosen't want to hurt the bruthas" by suing the ones really at fault, she must sue "whitey" and make him pay because its all about shifting blame from her and the home owner to "da white man" because it wasn't drowning that "kilt da child" it was racism and slavery. becasue "if dat child would have bin white dey would have fount dat child in 10 minutes" but the "poleece" knew dat child was in dat pool "drownt" and "dey was probably standing around da pool watching as the child was drownting laffing and jo-king"..so its time for the "marches and protests" using the same 50 year old tired and worn out phrases..."we shall overcome and no justice/no peace"...hey where's al or jessie??? oh i guess the mom and her enablers couldn't raise the $25,000 appearance fee necessary for the race pimps al or jessie to show up...

augrichgal
297
Points
augrichgal 06/24/13 - 09:52 am
1
0
The only red flag is how do

The only red flag is how do the children hear a clank and assume it is the gate?

I also know children, they are focused on one thing and not really paying attention to anything else. The two teens were paid to clean the pool not babysit so they probably did not pay any attention to the 2 younger ones. The 11 year old def is not old enough to think about the possibility that his younger friend maybe under water and is trouble. He didnt see his friend and assumed he left. Typical for that age.

It is unfornuate case of lack of supervision.

I am so sorry for this mom, I am a mother too. I hope she finds peace, but i do not think some big law firm is going to help her find the closure she needs. It will only drag it out for years to come.

absolutelymadison
29
Points
absolutelymadison 06/27/13 - 06:03 am
1
0
CORGIMON YOU MAKE A VALID POINT..

People do die quite offend by accident and do not have any witnesses; this is why investigations are conducted and evidence gathered to ensure that it was exactly as authorities have concluded. Why is anyone so upset that the mother wants to find out what happen? If a child breaks an arm the parents first wants to know will they be okay, then what happen. Well Ms. Stevens already knows her child is gone; so what happen is her due justice.
As I see it he was allegedly standing in the shallow end, not cleaning the pool. One thing for sure he is an Angle now and, God loves all his children especially babies the details of the truth will prevail.

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