ST. LOUIS (AP) — The son of a Ferguson protester who was found hanging in a tree died by suicide, a medical examiner ruled Tuesday, contradicting his mother’s suggestion that he was lynched by people opposed to her activism.
The St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s office’s finding confirmed assertions by police that 24-year-old Danye Jones killed himself. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch obtained a copy of the report through an open records request.
Jones was found Oct. 17 hanging from a tree at the home of his mother, Melissa McKinnies, who helped to organize protests after the August 2014 fatal shooting of black Ferguson 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer.
McKinnies was the last person to see Jones alive when he went into the backyard the evening of Oct. 16, according to the report.
Investigators discovered Jones had texted his sister, Memisha, “I’m sorry” about 15 minutes after he went into the yard and she had replied “I love you.” McKinnies and her husband, Derek Chatman discovered his body the next morning.
Soon after, McKinnies posted photos on Facebook of her deceased son, with the words: “They lynched my baby.” The post was removed but it caused speculation on social media sites that Jones was murdered.
McKinnies has said she doesn’t believe her son killed himself and was instead targeted because of her activism. She said her son was upbeat, not depressed, and that he didn’t know how to tie knots. He left a packed overnight bag on the patio, which she said indicated he planned to leave with the person who killed him.
No scratches, bruises or any signs of trauma were found on Jones’s body, according to the medical examiner’s report, which said he had some cannabis but no alcohol in his system. No autopsy was conducted.
McKinnies, who received a copy of the report last week, said: “Of course, I disagree with it.” She did not comment further.
The medical examiner’s investigator found a wooden chair knocked on its side under the tree where Jones had been hanging. Jones’ family members indicated that he had felt depressed several times during the years but was never diagnosed with depression, the report said. He had recently tried unsuccessfully to start a real estate company and was dealing with rumors that he was gay, according to his family.
Jones did not leave a suicide letter.