A Missouri family is looking for answers after their son was shot and murdered at a prom celebration.
According to the Associated Press, Derontae Martin, 19, returned to his former Park Hills neighborhood on April 24 to attend a house party thrown by a white middle-aged guy who has a history of upholding the Confederate flag, according to his Facebook account. Emergency personnel were called to the home at 3 a.m. the next day (April 25), where the teen was discovered dead in the attic.
Martin’s death was deemed a suicide by an initial autopsy, according to Madison County Sheriff Katy McCutcheon, who noted that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.
After conducting their own post-mortem examination, the Missouri State Highway Patrol affirmed the suicide verdict. There are still unanswered issues about who owned the pistol and when and how it came into Martin’s possession. Ericka Lotts, his mother, questions the ruling because her right-handed son was wearing a cast on his right arm at the time of his death.
In various marches since then, activists have banded together to call into question the findings and demand justice for Martin. During a demonstration last week in Fredericktown — the predominantly white district where the party was hosted — anti-demonstrators hurled racial obscenities at protesters and tossed two nooses at them, according to activist Rev. Darryl Gray.
Martin’s death was a “suspicious death,” according to Gray. “How did Derontae wind up at this party, and how did he end up in the attic?” At the very least, there is a lack of care here.”
Lotts claims she’s heard conflicting reports of what happened the night her son was murdered and isn’t sure which to believe. “All I know is that he was shot,” she explained.
Gray, Lotts, and Madison County Prosecuting Attorney M. Dwight Robbins have sought for an investigation into the 19-year-death old’s by the Missouri Attorney General’s office. It’s unclear whether Attorney General Eric Schmitt will become engaged in the case.