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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.”

Comments (44) Add comment
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KSL
140246
Points
KSL 05/17/13 - 11:22 am
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.

Sweet son
11083
Points
Sweet son 05/17/13 - 12:37 pm
5
0
Misspelled!

If you guys find a misspelled word or other problems with the site just send Sean an email. He is very receptive and most often can fix issues within a few minutes.

Thanks Sean for all you do!

As far as this story goes, it it a non story! Sheriff Roundtree and his deputies are capable of investigating this situation without interference from free loading interlopers.

InChristLove
22481
Points
InChristLove 05/17/13 - 12:45 pm
3
0
It is truly sad that a simple

It is truly sad that a simple question in a comment would offend someone so much that they saw the need to press that ugly red thumbs down button. I seriously hope it made you feel better.

LBunnies, in response to your statement that the home owner is white, which has nothing to do with anything, I must disagree. It appears to have everything to do with why the SCLC has their hand in this situation. An previous article in the AC indicated the mother had some questions concerning the nature of her son's death and requested the issue be looked into further. Next thing you know we have an article with SCLC all in an uproar about a demonstration and a mother's comment that it's not a black/white issue. If it's not....why even make this kind of statement, why have the SCLC involved.

If the home owner has been African American would that statement have ever been uttered or would the SCLC be involved?

You stated "I would think the sheriff's office would have already been questioning these kids and then questioning them again." How do you know that the sheriff's office hasn't

KSL
140246
Points
KSL 05/17/13 - 01:43 pm
2
1
Don't have Sean's email

Don't have Sean's email address. Took a brief time to look for it.

Riverman1
90509
Points
Riverman1 05/17/13 - 02:25 pm
4
0
It does appear to be a

It does appear to be a strange death. But don't you think Sheriff Roundtree in a predominantly black county with all the black officials Richmond County has would make sure to find out the truth? I don't get the idea that something is being hidden.

Riverman1
90509
Points
Riverman1 05/17/13 - 03:01 pm
5
1
Countyman asks, "Why does

Countyman asks, "Why does Riverman feel the need to spin every single one my comments? "

Don't give yourself too much importance. I search the Chronicle message boards for inconsistent and unreasonable comments. I reply to all of them.

KSL
140246
Points
KSL 05/17/13 - 03:17 pm
2
2
In short, why is a black mom

In short, why is a black mom going after a black sheriff?

abowman04
13
Points
abowman04 05/17/13 - 03:49 pm
3
0
My heart goes out to the

My heart goes out to the mother and I give my condolences to the family. Hopefully there is a little more to this story, but from what I read, I think it is a little bit of a stretch to claim that this little boy was murdered. I do agree that the there needs to be a full investigation to find out what really happened so questions can be answered. However a missing tshirt and shoes, does not exactly equal foul. I mean if someone pushed him into the water with or without his knowledge I would think that his shirt and shoes would still be on. Also just because some is not a fan of water doesn't mean they will not get in water, i mean if he was scared of water why was he hanging around a pool? There are alot of unanswered questions like the most important where were the parents when this happened, was he spending the night over a friend's house, why was an eight year old outside cleaning a pool unsupervised? Such a sad story

Darby
28357
Points
Darby 05/17/13 - 04:18 pm
5
1
I sincerely pray that this poor, grieving mom

is not being victimized by race hustlers. From my current viewpoint, it is beginning to look that way.

If there was a crime involved, I want it discovered and punished, but if not, then this devastated lady is going to be worse off for the mean spirited exploitation of her child's death.

InChristLove
22481
Points
InChristLove 05/17/13 - 04:40 pm
1
0
victimized by race hustlers

I think that is exactly what's happening. I'd really like to know from Charles Steele Jr., (I do not consider him a Rev.) what does an African American man's murder in 1955 have to do with a young 8 year old boy drowning in 2013. Why does he assume the Augusta "authorities" haven't addressed this issue, and what in the world is he referring to when he says "those who won't or those who are scared to take a stand". Afraid to take a stand for what?

Sheriff Roundtree needs to nip this in the butt.

countyman
21299
Points
countyman 05/17/13 - 04:45 pm
2
2
Just keep spinning!!!

Riverman... Let's be honest, because you even responded to my comments from yesterday. I mentioned one of the new restaurants coming to West Augusta, and you brought up how the developer might be looking at the demographics of Columbia County. This entire comment you made yesterday had nothing to do with my comment(the restaurant is located in Richmond County), but you accuse others of being inconsistent.

What about my comment from today was inconsistent or unreasonable?

The statistics were taken from the US census, and were the demographics of Richmond County...

Riverman1
90509
Points
Riverman1 05/18/13 - 04:27 am
2
0
Countyman, Think for a Minute

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

That comment is under an article about a black boy drowning and various groups questioning how he died. To say what you said is being insensitive, to say the least.

nocnoc
47226
Points
nocnoc 05/18/13 - 07:34 am
2
0
My tail feathers have been

My tail feathers have been salted by both RM & CM.

It is part of the process when you are called out for being wrong, in their opinion.

But both do listen to replies and read counter facts. Heck both have adjusted where they stand given the new data corrective data they get from time to time.

nocnoc
47226
Points
nocnoc 05/18/13 - 07:43 am
1
0
HUMOR - PICTURE

HUMOR - PICTURE THIS

Something happens in Augusta.
The word goes out there is a "white person involved" and a Black person has been shot dead.

The phones are ringing off the hook in the NAACP, SCLS, Rev. JJ, Rev. AS, Rev. Lowery and others.

All everyone of them has a private plane into Augusta Reg. Airport they all arrive at the same time.

What would the headline read?

My cut
"Massive Fight in Lobby of the Augusta Reg Airport."
I could just see them rolling on the floor, fighting over who will get the lead and how the $$$ and air time will be divided up.

ICYUNVme
10
Points
ICYUNVme 05/18/13 - 08:23 am
0
0
FACTS!!!

I understand people will have their opinions and read and jump to the first of a conclusion! I have seen and heard some of the most absurd comments on some issues on here. Folks get facts before you start making assumptions. Look at the word assume first three letters spell what? If you do research get the facts ( all you attorneys) then come in present your case. This include being a mother and finding out your 8-year old is gone! That day is only known by the ones that were there and God Himself, but evidence points to something that apparently didn't look accidental or there wouldn't be an investigation and this mother wouldn't be pushing like this. The SCLC came here under what circumstances? Do you bashers know? No you don't of course there goes that word assume again! RC was not going to investigate this as anything other than accidental cause it seem open and shut. That morning they pulled that baby from that pool it was never treated as a crime scene which until ruled out should have been. This system state, " innocent until proven guilty," which they handle cases guilty until proven innocent... in this case this baby got neither. Yes, children do tend to be playful, and yes accidents do happen, but find out for this mother. Race always have and always I'm sure of will be on folks tongue and mind cause it does exist. If you have been in RC living here all your life, then you already know the system that we have here. Who's in office plays a front line... it's them Whigs behind the closed doors that runs RC! So please stop with the slander of who is involved with helping this mother cause you don't know to what extinct that she had reached out with RC and in what manner they have handled it other than the bs they simply say to someone, " under investigation!" Get you all some business and leave others alone!!! Oh one more thing... it's not just black on black crime in RC or white on white come it's human race on human race come! Just as many whites are killing their own... just look at the news across the world... Sandy Springs, Colorado, Boston Bombing, etc. just to name a few. Don't think those were blacks, it's humans killing humans! Good day critics...

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