Dothan Teen Murder or Suicide?

By: Deborah Tuff
By: Deborah Tuff

On November 8th, a mother and her two children were walking through Eastgate Park, when they came upon a young man hanging by his neck in the park gazebo.

Police reports say his hands and feet were not bound, and his shirt and shoes were found folded neatly nearby.

Witnesses who called the police department say they'd seen 17-year-old high school student Zachary Smith walking around the park for hours, before his body was discovered.

His death was later ruled a suicide.

"The Dothan medics arrived along with the Dothan Police Department and found a young man’s body in the pavilion area" says Dothan Police Sergeant David Jay.

However, Smith's parents Paul and Shenia don't believe it.

Calls to the boy’s home went un-returned, but through a statement released through Alabama’s Conference of the NAACP, Paul Smith said, "It looked like a lynching."

NAACP President Edward Vaughn said, "Only the truth will clear the air in the hanging death of young Zachary Smith."

Investigators strongly disagree, saying the young man had no defensive wounds and with his hands un-bound, could have freed himself using a pole that was easily within reach.

They also stress, despite rumors, members of Dothan’s black community shouldn't fear anything.

"The public can feel safe with the results of our investigation," said Sergeant Jay.

Houston County's coroner and the state examiner have also investigated and say they found no foul play.

The FBI has gotten involved with the investigation as well.

Smith was a student at Dothan High School. Funeral services will be held Friday at 1PM at Patterson Free Will Baptist Church.


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