A preliminary autopsy gives “likely drowning” as the cause of death for a Louisiana teen who disappeared in late October and was found dead less than a week later, but questions about the boy’s death and the investigation have led his family to seek an independent autopsy from a company in Texas, ABC13 reports.
Quawan “Bobby” Charles, 15, was last seen on October 30 leaving his father’s house in the St Mary Parish town of Baldwin with a friend and the friend’s mother — without permission, a family spokesperson said, as CrimeOnline previously reported. His body was found on November 3 in ankle-deep water in a sugar cane field in Iberia Parish near Loreauville, about 22 miles from Baldwin.
Charles’s mother, Roxanne Nelson, snapped a photo of her son’s ravaged face and compared it with that of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black boy who was abducted and savagely beaten and mutilated before his body was sunk into Mississippi’s Tallahatchie River in 1955. His killers were acquitted by an all-white jury. His mother Mamie insisted on an open-casket funeral so the brutality inflicted on her son would be seen.
Iberia Parish Coroner Carl Ditch noted “evidence of drowning” on the one-page preliminary autopsy report, released Friday, according to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser: “muddy water in airways, hyper inflated lungs, water in sphenoid sinuses.” Ditch wrote that he found no evidence of injuries before death on Charles’s face and concluded that the injures seen on his face in Roxanne Nelson’s gruesome photo (Warning: Graphic photo) were caused by “aquatic animals.”
No further information will be released, the coroner said, until the autopsy is finalized, including toxicology reports, in about 12 weeks.
Charles’s family has been unhappy with the investigation from the start, saying that Iberia Parish deputies did not take their initial missing person report seriously.
“There was no Amber Alert issued,” Chase Trichell, an attorney for the family, told News 10. “The police did not take this seriously, at least initially, and the question of course is, could his life have been saved?”
Amber Alerts must be activated by state authorities, but Louisiana State Police Lt Nick Manale said his agency “was not contacted in reference to the missing individual and is not currently part of the ongoing investigation,” the Washington Post reported.
Civil rights attorney Ron Haley, also representing the family, said that local news media were never alerted about the missing teen.
“Once this became public, almost every local news station said, ‘We had no idea a child was even missing,’ ” Haley said, adding that detectives hadn’t even pinged Bobby’s cellphone until several days after his disappearance. “That’s how they knew where to narrow the search for him,” he said.
Charles’s family accompanied Iberia Parish deputies to the trailer home in Loreauville where Gavin Irwin, 17, and Janet Irwin — the friend and his mother who were last seen with the boy — lived on November 3. Gavin confirmed that they had picked the boy up so the two of them could spend some time together but said that Bobby had left later in the day, alone. Deputies searched the trailer but found nothing suspicious.
Later that day, the teen’s body was found, and now the Gavins have moved out of the trailer park. A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office would not say if deputies were in contact with them.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office said that they continue “to investigate the suspicious circumstances surrounding” Charles’s death and that they “have interviewed multiple individuals and collected physical evidence which is being processed.”
Meanwhile, the family wants answers. Haley said that Bobby’s body was sent to American Forensics in Mesquite, Texas, for an independent autopsy on Tuesday, and he expects results early next week, ABC13 said.
“I believe he was murdered and I believe somebody tried to cover it up,” Haley told the Daily Advertiser. “How, why, we don’t know. Folks have made the connection that it was a hate crime. I’m not ready to go there yet — there is much to be learned.”
“Something hateful was done to him. … Motivation does not make it worse or not worse,” Haley added.
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[Feature Photo: Quawan Charles/Handout]