Suicide Motive Suggested in Miss. Lynching

ByABC News
July 14, 2000, 7:05 PM

K O K O M O, Miss. July 14 -- 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 RaynardJohnsons 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 familys 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 students family says he was not in love with Matthewsand maintains he would not have taken his own life. The Rev. JesseJackson, who believes the teens 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 girls credibility. Jackson said hebelieves the hanging was provoked by the Johnson brothersrelationships 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.