A year since Black youth’s hanging
BY CASH MICHAELS OF THE WILMINGTON JOURNAL
Local authorities ruled it a suicide, as did the State Bureau of Investigation, but Lacy’s family, and subsequently the NC NAACP, didn’t buy it. They believed that young Lennon was murdered, lynched, probably because he had reportedly been involved in an interracial affair in a small, rural community down east where such a thing was still frowned upon.
The family and the NCNAACP later convinced the US Attorney’s Office to formally open a federal probe into Lennon’s mysterious death. Since that time the FBI probe remains open, but thus far, there has been no word of its progress, or of any evidence or arrests resulting from it.
This Saturday will mark one year since Lennon Lacy’s death, but his family and the NC NAACP still hold out hope for a definite resolution, and justice.
This Friday, August 28th, 7 p.m. at First Missionary Baptist Church, 521 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Bladenboro, a memorial service is scheduled to be held marking that first anniversary, and paying tribute to the memory of a productive young man everyone says had a bright, promising future.
“He made me proud to be his mom,” Claudia Lacy, his mother says.
Lennon Lee Lacy, 17, was one of the youngest of four sons to Claudia Lacy and Larry Walton, according to public records. The family lives in Bladenboro, population 2000. Lennon, a junior, attended West Bladenboro High School, and played on the football team there as a linebacker.
He would have graduated in 2016.
By all accounts, Lennon was well liked and respected, both as a student and as a member of the close-knit team, for his hard-work ethic.
So close-knit, in fact, that on the day Lennon was found dead, the team met and decided to still play the scheduled football game that evening, but play it in his honor.
“What hurts me [most] is not knowing,” Mrs. Lacy told The Wilmington Journal during a telephone interview in September 2014, indicating that she was not pleased with how the case was being handled by the Bladenboro police or the State Bureau of Investigation then.
“I just want to get to the bottom of it.”
It was soon after that an independent pathologist, hired by the NC NAACP, examined the autopsy records, and determined that the initial procedure was mishandled by local authorities.
“’[The Lacy family is]… being asked to accept the fact that their son, brother, and cousin might have walked out of his home the night before his first big home football game that he had been preparing for all summer,” Rev. Barber said at a November 2014 press conference with the family present. “That he would have hidden his brand new shoes that he had been wearing, so no one could find them. That he would have found a pair of older low-top sneakers, taken the strings out of them, and jammed them on his feet, although they were two sizes too small. That he would have walked alone to a trailer park owned by a white man who is in prison for dealing drugs. That he would have picked up two leashes/belts along the way and fashioned a noose out of them all by himself. That when he got there, he would have picked a swing set with no swings hanging from it, and taken the leash/belt, tied it to the beam and through the eyehook, and then put the leash around his neck, and swung himself out to his self-inflicted death.”
“And he did all this with no one around, and he remained there until 7 a.m. or so in the morning, after people were leaving for work at the Smithfield Plant or to school,” Barber added.
“And they are being asked to accept this without knowing that all of the other factors and leads have been exhausted.”
Last March, a special report on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” raised startling new questions surrounding the death of Lennon Lacy.
One of those questions involved Michelle Brimhall, the 32-year-old white mother who Lennon had been dating, to the chagrin of his family, and apparently other people in the small town.
Brimhall had a giant picture of Lennon Lacy headlining her Facebook page, which lists her as being from Bement, Illinois, currently attending Bladen Community College, living in Bladenboro and having one daughter who apparently still lives in Bement.
“Outside the Lines” asked Brimhall if Lennon’s death had anything to do with the fact that they were dating.
“I don’t believe so,” she replied. Brimhall acknowledged that Lennon’s family “didn’t approve”, but they didn’t try to stop the relationship.
Months earlier, Brimhall was forced to move from the white couple’s house she had been staying at since she had moved to Bladenboro because they didn’t approve of her dating the black teenager, the ESPN program alleged. She got her own apartment in the same complex where Lennon’s family lived.
A neighbor in that complex named Whitney Michael told OTL that she saw “a steady stream of traffic pull up to Michelle Brimhall’s door. “You know, in and out, different guys, different vehicles, back and forth at her house,” the woman said, adding that she “put two and two together.”
When asked if Lennon Lacy “had put two and two together” about what was going on at Michelle Brimhall’s apartment, Whitney Michael told OTL he did “…in a way…but he was in denial.”
It would be later, Michael continued, that Lennon became upset when told that Brimhall had been allegedly …”sleeping around with other guys that he did not know about…multiple guys, like different partners. He was hurt by it. That was his girlfriend.”
OTL reported that shortly after midnight, the night before Lennon Lacy died, Whitney Michael said she and Lennon saw a car pull up to Brimhall’s apartment, with her and a black getting out and walking inside.
“He was like, “Oh wow, really?” she recalled.
Michelle Brimhall told OTL that she was seeing Lacy “exclusively” at that point, so she was not romantically involved with the black man she was with. She did confirm that Lennon was “in some ways” jealous. But Brimhall dismissed that he had reason to be because, she said, she got along better with men than with women…and Lennon knew this.”
Brimhall denied that Lacy came to her home after midnight to confront her about the black man she had brought with her.
When asked, Brimhall said she did not think that Lennon Lacy committed suicide. “Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe he came across someone doing something,” she added when asked what she thought happened to him.
Whitney Michael believes, as does Claudia Lacy, that Lennon was killed.
But if it was a murder, then who did it?
“I have no idea,” Ms. Lacy told OTL, I have no idea.”
The ESPN report also raised another troubling question – did a white male that Lacy was in a fight with months earlier for allegedly stealing Lennon’s phone follow through with his alleged threat to “kill and hang” Lacy?
That person reportedly was released from jail three weeks before Lacy’s death.
The memorial service for Lennon Lee Lacy is scheduled for this Friday, August 28th, 7 p.m. at First Missionary Baptist Church, 521 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Bladenboro.