Suicide Motive Suggested in Miss. Lynching

ByPaul Payne

K O K O M O, Miss. July 14, 2000 -- A black teen who died by hanging last monthwas told by a girlfriend that night that she was in love withsomeone else, the young woman told police.

District Attorney Buddy McDonald confirmed reports that thestatement from 17-year-old Taccara Matthews was shared with RaynardJohnson’s family, along with an autopsy report and other documents.

Johnson, 17, was found hanging from a pecan tree just yards fromthe front door of his family’s rural Marion County home June 16.Two autopsies — one commissioned by the family — concluded theinjuries were consistent with suicide.

McDonald said today that his own investigation is incomplete,and that “there are one or two things still being looked at.”

Family Still Denies SuicideThe honor student’s family says he was not in love with Matthewsand maintains he would not have taken his own life. The Rev. JesseJackson, who believes the teen’s death was a lynching, lobbied fora federal investigation since local and state authorities ruled thedeath a suicide.

Jackson and the Johnson family met with Attorney General JanetReno in Washington on Wednesday. Reno said she assured the group thatthe FBI would follow every lead in the case, and Jackson said hewas satisfied with those assurances.

Jackson dismissed the Matthews’ statement, as a “small piece ofthe case,” and questioned the girl’s credibility. Jackson said hebelieves the hanging was provoked by the Johnson brothers’relationships with two young white women.

Matters of the HeartMcDonald confirmed Matthews, who is black, gave a statement toinvestigators that she broke up with Johnson at his home only twohours before his death.

“I told him I love him, but I loved someone else,” the girlsaid in the statement confirmed by prosecutors, “and he sat therejust looking at me. And he asked me if I was ready to go home, andI said, ‘Yeah.“‘

A brother, Roger Johnson, told The Clarion-Ledger newspaper ofJackson that Raynard Johnson and Matthews had been together shortlybefore his brother’s death.

“He took her back home. After he dropped her off, he came backhere,” Roger Johnson told the newspaper. “Then she called backand said, ‘Did Raynard make it back all right?“‘

Johnson’s mother, Maria, said today that her son found Matthewsattractive but did not love her.

Efforts to contact Matthews by telephone, both through herfamily and through the district attorney’s office, wereunsuccessful. Kimberly Forbes, who lives near the Matthewsapartment, said today that she had moved to Monroe, La. She saidMatthews had been planning a move even before Johnson’s death.There was no listing for Matthews in Monroe.

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