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SCLC rights group seeks 'justice' in Hephzibah boy's drowning

Thursday, May 16, 2013 6:37 PM
Last updated Friday, May 17, 2013 12:57 PM
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Civil rights activists rallied for answers Thursday in the drowning of an 8-year-old Hephzibah boy, saying that if Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree does not launch a full investigation, a “national movement” will come to Augusta.

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The Rev. Charles Steele Jr., the CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, speaks at the rally. He said his group is ready to demonstrate if necessary.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
The Rev. Charles Steele Jr., the CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, speaks at the rally. He said his group is ready to demonstrate if necessary.

Gathering in front of John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference said it was serving notice to the sheriff that justice will be had for Jon Stevens. The McBean Elementary School second-grader drowned April 13 while cleaning a residential swimming pool, according to sheriff’s Investigator Ashley Pletcher.

“This is serious business,” said the Rev. Charles Steele Jr., the president emeritus and CEO of the SCLC, based in Atlanta. “We are not going to let a city like this sit idly by and not find out who murdered this young man. We are getting ready to march. We are getting ready to demonstrate. We are getting to raise hell and go to jail.”

More than 25 people protested outside the courthouse, holding signs that read “Justice for Jon,” “Operation Incomplete” and “Answers for April 13, 2013.”

The boy’s mother, Jeannette Stevens, told the crowd that her top priority is learning the truth about his death, which she believes resulted after the child, who was not a swimmer or a fan of water, was pushed or injured in or near
the pool in his Hunters Mill neighborhood.

Among the questions the SCLC and the Stevens family want answered:

• Why is the shirt Jon was wearing when he died missing, and why did police wait three weeks to seize the boy’s shoes as evidence?

• Why have sheriff’s investigators ruled the case an accidental drowning despite the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s saying it would be three months until an autopsy is completed?

• Why did sheriff’s deputies wait four hours after Jon was reported missing to search the pool in which he was last seen?

• Why haven’t detectives conducted individual follow-up interviews with witnesses to verify the
events leading up to the drowning and debunk any suspicion of a cover-up?

“This is not a black-and-white issue. It’s a wrong-and-right issue,” said Stevens, her hands trembling and face streaked with tears. “My son was murdered, and I want someone to give me the truth … instead of ignoring the case.”

Stevens said investigators have not contacted her since visiting her home May 6 and promising to re-interview key witnesses, whose accounts of the deaths reportedly have changed.

Lt. Calvin Chew, a sheriff’s office spokesman, said that the case remains under investigation and that the agency “will not comment further until its completion.”

Neighbor Brooke Johnson was among the first to dive into the pool in search of Jon on April 13, going in about midnight, 90 minutes before authorities pulled the boy from the muddy water.

“From what I know of Jon, he being in my house, he would not have gotten in that pool, being the way it was,” said Johnson, whose daughter attended school with Jon. “The stories have changed since the drowning, and we need answers.”

Kisha Thomas, Jon’s godmother, said a lack of answers and flurry of suspicion have made finding any closure hard for the family.

“Jon was a very bright and gifted child,” said Thomas, who added that Jon helped her 12-year-old daughter with school work at times. “This is not in his character, and we are shocked the sheriff’s office has not done anything further. It’s almost like they do not care.”

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nocnoc
105395
Points
nocnoc 05/16/13 - 07:06 pm
15
3
Sorry to see this become a Activist thing

just so a few "media Reverends" can grab lime light while acting like Champions and "activists".

What bunch of media sluts, to use a mother that is going through a really rough period right now, to further they own personal goals.

To the good Reverend that said:
“We are not going to let a city like this sit idly by and not find out who murdered this young man." Please open your eyes. This ain't 1960, it is 2013. The population is 63% Black now and <34% White.

Are you saying Sheriff Roundtree is sitting on this?

oldfella
622
Points
oldfella 05/16/13 - 09:45 pm
9
1
How will this speed the investigation along?

I'm sure the family does want "answers" - but "justice?" How can you demand justice when you don't know who did it or what exactly was done, be it accidental or intentional? Would Sheriff Roundtree cover this up? This isn't a brawl with minor injuries - it's a young man drowning, so I can't see how or why he could cover this up. This activism will not help, it will only impede an investigation.

Columbia County had detainees die under mysterious circumstances on more than one occasion, and these things were never resolved. Maybe activism would have helped, who knows.

Little Lamb
62883
Points
Little Lamb 05/16/13 - 09:56 pm
7
1
Deputy Steele

Sheriff Roundtree should just deputize Rev. Charles Steele and however many minions he brings along. Let them conduct the investigation while the sheriff and his deputies try to prevent new crimes.

Pops
45082
Points
Pops 05/16/13 - 10:02 pm
10
4
This is the kind

of "cause" that the SCLC gets involved in all the time. Wailing about some "injustice" or implying some sort of racism. Just an attempt to try and be relevant. This kind of involvement is easy compared with some real problems they might want to tackle, but don't, like black on black crime.

dstewartsr
20394
Points
dstewartsr 05/16/13 - 10:20 pm
7
3
InChristLove
22493
Points
InChristLove 05/16/13 - 10:27 pm
7
2
"“This is not a black and

"“This is not a black and white issue. "

This has me curious now. I take it by the pictures that Ms. Stevens is African American which would mean her son Jon, was also. Does anyone know what the race is of the family where the pool was being cleaned and evidently where Jon drowned? I'm just curious why the mother would even state this isn't a black/white issue if all parties involved were of the same race....if they aren't then this would explain the civil rights activist (if you want to call them that) being involved.

countyman
27650
Points
countyman 05/16/13 - 10:47 pm
3
7
Nonoc... What city is 63%

Nonoc... What city is 63% black???

This is the 2010 to 2011 change in Richmond County.
white population 39.7% to 40.8%
black population 54.2% to 54.4%

Due to the revitalization/gentrification of the urban core, GRU developments, demolishing housing projects, etc.. This is the closes Augusta's black population will ever get in relation to your very high percentage.

sassylassie
545
Points
sassylassie 05/16/13 - 11:02 pm
7
3
Perhaps while the good Rev.

Perhaps while the good Rev. and his helpers are here, they could protest the poor behavior of the individuals fighting on Broad Street as seen on YouTube or the assaults at Riverwalk in downtown recently? Or would that be too much to ask? Selective aren't we? And don't you think that the sheriff's department is already following protocol in this case? The GBI will have answers for them and everyone else soon enough. The sheriff and investigators have to wait for that info before making any more moves. We can't jump to assumptions.
It is a pitiful situation with the grieving mother losing such a beautiful, innocent, full-of-potential child. Shame on these individuals for showing up and pushing their agenda using her situation as the soapbox!!! GO HOME!

Just My Opinion
9013
Points
Just My Opinion 05/17/13 - 04:45 am
11
1
Honestly, I was doing okay

Honestly, I was doing okay with the idea that this poor mother felt she had to bring in somebody to help her get things moving with this case. I mean, according to the points brought up, it does seem that there are some unanswered questions. But, as soon as I heard that man bring up something that happened in the 50's...the FIFTIES!!!!...and then he made SURE to mention the KKK!!..well, then I just knew that this was off to a bad start and I just shoke my head at it. Surely there are other ways to move this through the system that would be better than use this side-circus charlatan!
I hope this poor mother is able to find the answers she is looking for, and soon.

Riverman1
162583
Points
Riverman1 05/17/13 - 04:58 am
6
2
Countyman said, "This is the

Countyman said, "This is the closes Augusta's black population will ever get in relation to your very high percentage."

That's a statement that's not very friendly to black folks. If a black family is thinking of moving into Augusta are they to think they're not wanted?

scoobynews
3896
Points
scoobynews 05/17/13 - 05:14 am
8
0
Sorry for her loss but...

The previous article said she last saw her son at 3pm. Then it was after 9 pm before anyone knew he was missing. That seems like a long time to me before you start wondering where your kid is!!!! Accidents happen All the time. I am so sorry this boy drowned but this even happens to experienced swimmers in some cases.

oldfella
622
Points
oldfella 05/17/13 - 06:55 am
11
2
The KKK link explained

What does this as yet unsolved case have to do with the KKK? The pool contained "muddy water" so perhaps they were hiding in the pool (wearing scuba gear) and yanked him into the water. Can the KKK prove that they weren't there? Why haven't the authorities followed this obvious lead?
As for the "civil rights" reasoning - last week a young white man was found dead in a car. The lab reports will take THREE MONTHS at least to return. The lab results for Jon will take THREE MONTHS at least. What an outrage! Last year a young white girl was missing on Fort Gordon and it took almost 24 hours to find her drowned body in a post lake behind their neighborhood. My point? This has NOTHING to do with the mission statement of the SCLC! They have done and will do a great service to the black community - but this nothing to do with discrimination or civil rights violations. There are plenty of unresolved white death cases that sure seem to be mishandled. Are there not blatant, ongoing civil rights issues that the SCLC can take on?

nocnoc
105395
Points
nocnoc 05/17/13 - 07:16 am
4
2
Countyman is correct. My

Countyman is correct.

My quoted percentages were incorrect.
The official updated US Census Numbers are:

Black persons, percent, 54.7% for ARC
White persons not Hispanic, percent, 37.4% for ARC
http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/13/1304204.html

But the general point is made.
The only majority in ARC is Black, thus they have the votes and the power to discriminate.

In the 1960's it was US Census figures:
Rounded to the nearest 1000
151K Whites 60.4%+/-
64K Blacks 25.6% +/-

nocnoc
105395
Points
nocnoc 05/17/13 - 07:44 am
9
2
To the SCLCFor those of you

To the SCLC

For those of you still stuck in the past.
There are no Jim Crow laws anymore and I Thank Dr. King for that.
We have legal equality across the board and I thank JFK/LBJ & Dr. King for that.

Regarding ARC RCSO failing and the implied racial overtone your group is looking for pillow cases and white sheets in the closet. Now-a-days the population has matured they are strictly bed linen. Sure there are some Racists, and there always will be. But in the 2000's that number seems to be equally divided now.

But I am taken back with your group going directly public in a accusing manner.

Q. Did you have private discussions with our Black Sheriff, or go direct to the press?

Q. Have you had private discussions with our 5 black commissioners to work with them to resolve the issue, or go directly to the press?

Open your eyes ARC is a black majority run and operated Government.

Your comments are saying our Black Leaders are failing? Is this how you think you are helping?

My general opinion
This is just another of the many issues that your group and others will toss into the Media Light for the upcoming election cycle to drum up votes, $$$ or for SCLC political power.

In short
SCLC it isn't the 1960 anymore.
The old rattle the cage and crack the whip ain't working, bend that finger and point it at yourself.

It is time for the SCLC to address the 2010's problems of America.

It is time to address the #1 killer on Black people in America.
Black on Black crime is the new bigot hurting the Black population.

seenitB4
167278
Points
seenitB4 05/17/13 - 07:37 am
8
2
A National Movement

Welcome to the Sheriff's job...Roundtree

The facts need to come out but threats need to go home.

nocnoc
105395
Points
nocnoc 05/17/13 - 07:47 am
5
2
SBI4 - Agreed . Kill the

SBI4 -

Agreed .

Kill the Media Spotlight .
Have a private discussion with RCSO.
Drop the Finger pointing.

KSL
243166
Points
KSL 05/17/13 - 08:16 am
4
3
PLEASE FIX THE TYPO!

PLEASE FIX THE TYPO!

SouthAugustan
220
Points
SouthAugustan 05/17/13 - 08:53 am
7
3
Rev Steele

needs to go back to Atlanta. He is a racist and is only trying to add to the racial tension Augusta already has. What about all the white people who are murdered, robbed, or beaten (riverwalk instance for one) by blacks? The KKK doesn't march in protest. Go home!

allhans
25544
Points
allhans 05/17/13 - 09:04 am
4
3
What is the story? The child

What is the story? The child left his home to go play with a friend...Is this the same friend that had the pool? Was it a few doors away?..blocks away?

LBunnies32
103
Points
LBunnies32 05/17/13 - 09:18 am
5
2
Crazy...

The home owner is white, which has nothing to do with anything! The neighbor kids were cleaning the pool. The only ones who know what happened are the neighbor kids that were cleaning the pool. I do not understand why a child who is scared of water would go near a pool to begin with. I would think the sheriffs office would have already been questioning these kids and then questioning them again. It's a very very sad situation.

Dixieman
25000
Points
Dixieman 05/17/13 - 09:58 am
6
3
HEY! WHERE'S AL SHARPTON?

Just what we need...people stirring up unwarranted trouble like this. Guess we have too much racial harmony in the CSRA and some folks need to get out there and demonstrate and try to rile up strife. Sheesh.

Fiat_Lux
23709
Points
Fiat_Lux 05/17/13 - 10:15 am
7
1
This is absurd

Find out what happened to this child, if that is even possible, and quit trying to make it out to be some act of racism. Sometime kids do things that get them killed, and nobody else is to blame for it, even if they are supposedly scared to death of whatever took them.

I can totally see a young kid, especially a boy-type kid, allowing his desire to be one of the big kids overcome his natural fear of water. That kind of thing happens all. the. time. And, if the genuinely big kids were ignoring him, perhaps even hoping he would just get out of their way and go home, it's not particularly surprising that they wouldn't get all anxious and alarmed if they looked up and he wasn't around.

From the dearth of information that has been put out thus far, this tragedy looks a lot like somewhat relaxed, possibly appropriate, supervision followed by an accident. Very tragic and devastating.

Throwing out an unsubstantiated, unfounded accusation of murder is completely irresponsible. They all should be ashamed of themselves for such self-serving, sensationalist, inflammatory statements.

If I were a parent of those older kids whose pool was the site of this boy's death, I would be consulting an attorney about handing these "media sluts" a slander lawsuit on behalf of my sons.

internationallyunknown
8544
Points
internationallyunknown 05/17/13 - 10:24 am
7
2
Augusta, GA is...

...a city where RACE TRUMPS ALL RATIONAL THOUGHT.

internationallyunknown
8544
Points
internationallyunknown 05/17/13 - 11:29 am
1
4
Apparently there is more to

Apparently there is more to the story than you guys know.
Stop speculating and be patient.

countyman
27650
Points
countyman 05/17/13 - 11:37 am
1
6
Why does Riverman feel the

Why does Riverman feel the need to spin every single one my comments? The comment meant Augusta is following the trends of larger cities. For instance the black population in Columbia County is the fastest growing, and the white population is stagnant.

Internationallyunknown.. The mayor of Augusta is white, and won two straight elections with over 60% of the vote.

Why do certain people care if this woman wants the help of the SCLC?

I find it hilarious the same people accusing the SCLC of things are the first people to mention race, and racial overtones.

Think first before you speak
7
Points
Think first before you speak 05/17/13 - 11:44 am
5
0
Questions?

Why was an 8 year old boy that could not swim cleaning a murky neighborhood swimming pool?

Did he take his shirt off because he was hot? or is it speculation that there was foul play? We may never know.

What is really murky is why did this boy take on this task? Did he have permission, or was he there without permission? IF he was there with permission, who gave permission to a boy who could not swim to be near water without adult supervision?

My last question, do you think Rev. Steele cares if you heal; or does he just want publicity?

My condolences to the family, I am truly sorry for your loss. However, I do not think Rev. Steele is going to be of any help. Your heart just needs time to heal.

gaj265
201
Points
gaj265 05/17/13 - 11:59 am
0
4
FIX THE HEADLINE!

Drowning is spelled incorrectly!

KSL
243166
Points
KSL 05/17/13 - 12:12 pm
1
2
You missed my comment?

You missed my comment?

KSL
243166
Points
KSL 05/17/13 - 12:16 pm
1
1
Let's begin a discussion on

Let's begin a discussion on black preachers. Martin Luther King, Sr. comes to mind. Check out his arrest record.

KSL
243166
Points
KSL 05/17/13 - 12:22 pm
1
1
You won't find it for free on

You won't find it for free on the Internet. And I do not blame you for not paying for it. But I know he spent some nights in jail in the county I am from. You won't like the reason.

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