But the possible lynching itself is still mired in mystery:
I talked to Claudia Lacy in Bladenboro in December of 2014. Earlier that year, on Aug. 29, she had lost her son Lennon Lacy, who was found hanging from a playground swing. Local law officers ruled his death a suicide. Claudia Lacy did not believe that. She thought her son, who was African-American, was lynched. She told me then she would not stop her search for the truth. She considered it her duty.
This mother’s mission makes up a big part of the documentary “Always In Season,” directed by Jacqueline Olive. Lacy’s story is interwoven with the brutal, tragic history of lynching in America. On Feb. 2, the documentary won the Special Jury Award for Moral Urgency at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.
When you look at the details of this case, you'd think it happened back in the 1950's:
“The police did a rushed investigation four years ago,” said Olive of the Lacy case. “A lot of the evidence was lost. A lot of the interviews and people who might have come forward are lost. So the community, as with historical lynchings, which often weren’t investigated at all, is left with speculations, stories and rumors. It’s hard for me to know what happened.”
I went out to the mobile home park and to the swing sets in the center of the park where Lennon had died. He was a football player, a husky guy, friendly, outgoing, mature for his age, according to people I interviewed.
I measured the distance from the beam to the ground -- 8 feet. The 5-foot-9 Lennon had been found hanging by two belts from that beam. There were no swings, and as pointed out by Lennon’s brother, Pierre, who I also interviewed: “There was nothing for him to be standing on.”
There were other troubling details. The crime scene had not been immediately secured. The belts used in the hanging did not belong to Lennon. Nor did the shoes, which were two sizes too small. Additionally, Lennon was rarely to be seen without his favorite pair of Air Jordans, which were missing.
Back in the mid-20th Century, evidence very often "went missing" in cases like this, and sometimes witnesses did too. Local law enforcement was mainly concerned with covering their asses before Feds showed up, as well as protecting "prominent" white families who were involved. And those things should have been glaring red flags for the FBI, but they played their part and dismissed any concerns about wrongful death.
But since his former girlfriend moved away and subsequently added more information about racist threats she had received, this case should be reopened:
Although 15 years older than Lennon the short but sparky mother-of-three says she hit it off with the teenager after they were introduced through friends. They became neighbors, living across the road from each other in a public housing complex.
She said: "I found everything about Lennon attractive. He was tall and strong and he acted much older than what he was. He had a very good soul."
However she became alarmed at racist remarks about her relationship with Lennon by some white people in Bladenboro, particularly two neighbors who had put up a sign around their trailer saying 'n*****s Keep Out' and flew a Confederate flag.
Brimhall said: 'Neighbors had told me they were against inter-racial relationships and it was "not right" me being with a black guy.
'We tried to keep it [our relationship] a secret. We would walk to the store together but we never held hands or kissed or any of that stuff out in public.'
It was no secret to anyone in the town, whose population is 80% white and 20% black, that the issue of race runs through it. The black minority have been known to call it Crackertown for the tension which is always present.
We owe it to this young man and his family to not allow this tragedy to fade into obscurity.