Mysterious Death of 15-Year-Old Black Boy Whose Body Was Found in Louisiana Sugar Cane Field Has His Parents Wondering if Race Slowed Police Response

Quawan “Bobby” Charles. (via Ronald Haley Jr.)

The mysterious death of a Black 15-year-old whose body was found in a sugar cane field in rural Louisiana four days after his parents reported him missing to local police has prompted calls for an independent investigation.

Among the things his family wants to know is why an Amber Alert was not issued and why the boy’s face appeared to be mutilated when his body was found.

The body of Quawan “Bobby” Charles was found in a sugar cane field Nov. 3 near the village of Loreauville, about 20 miles from his father’s home in Baldwin. Charles disappeared from the home on Oct. 30. The Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office said it is investigating the “suspicious circumstances” of the teen’s death but has released few details.

A preliminary autopsy report obtained by NBC News lists the cause of death as “likely drowning” and says Charles had “muddy water” in his airways, “hyper inflated lungs” and water in his sphenoid sinuses. It also states that Charles had no injuries before death on his face and that “post-mortem injuries on the face are likely aquatic animal activity” from his being found in water.

But Ronald Haley Jr., a lawyer for Charles’ family, said in an interview Friday that it is improbable the boy could have drowned because the water is shallow where his body was found. The family plans to seek an independent autopsy, Haley said.

The teen’s mother, Roxanne Nelson, had tried to reach her son on his cellphone Oct. 30 because she had planned to take him to get a haircut, Haley said.

After her calls went unanswered, she contacted Charles’ father, Kenneth Jacko, who tried to enter his bedroom, but the door was locked. Jacko was eventually able to access the room but could not find Charles. So he and Nelson went to the Baldwin Police Department, where a report was taken, Haley said.

It is not clear what action local police took after the report was filed. The Baldwin Police Department could not be reached for comment.

In a statement to The Acadiana Advocate newspaper, Baldwin Assistant Chief of Police Samuel Wise III said the department is “not investigating the death of a body found in Loreauville, Iberia Parish.”

“However, the Baldwin Police Department will be investigating reasons why the deceased juvenile was missing from his residence in Baldwin,” Wise wrote in the emailed statement. “Proper protocol was used to report the juvenile as missing and all procedures were followed thru within the Baldwin jurisdiction.”

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SOURCE: NBC News, Janelle Griffith