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Community refuses to accept suicide

By Jesse Muhammad | Last updated: Dec 23, 2010 - 12:08:11 AM

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Related story: Blacks doubt death in small Southern town is a suicide (FCN, 12-16-2010)

State Rep. Willie Perkins of the Leflore County NAACP branch.
MOORHEAD, Miss. ( - For those who knew the deceased Frederick Jermaine Carter, the notion of suicide doesn't sit well and they're angry over what they call a poor investigation on the part of local authorities.

“I know Jermaine would not commit suicide. I grew up there and I told my sister, ‘You're in the South, watch your kids.' And then I get a call that he was found hanging from a tree. I was hurt,”his aunt Shellia Ross told The Final Call.

Ms. Ross, who resides in Pittsburgh, joined her family, community leaders, politicians and residents at the wake and funeral services for her nephew on Dec. 18 and Dec. 19. Holding back tears, she vowed that this case is nowhere near over.

“The truth is going to come out. We're not going to let this get swept under the rug. There are people all around the world that want to help. It is coming from East, West, North and South. We're going to interrogate people. You who did this didn't hurt us, you united us. You're messing with the wrong people. I'm not afraid,” said Ms. Ross.

The open casket wake was held at Redmond Funeral Home in Indianola, Miss. Local residents could barely muster the strength to look at the body of Mr. Carter yet said they are not shocked that this happened in their state.

“I don't believe he committed suicide. I believe someone did this to him because that's the history of this place. Whoever did this don't need to be walking free around here,” said Dorothy Mann of Sunflower, Miss.

Pastor Fred Griggs and Sunflower, Miss., Mayor Michael Pembleton, Jr.
An older woman, who resides in Shaw, Miss., felt that the death is a manifestation of racism that still exists. “We still have some Caucasians who think a certain way about African-Americans. Some of them have gotten out of lynching but others have not. This is obvious considering what has happened to Mr. Carter,” she said.

“Racism will always be here. Racism is present even more because Obama is president. Look at how they are attacking him, so it is going on everywhere. This was not a suicide,” said Michael Pembleton, Sr.

Mr. Carter was an active member at Ark of Covenant Church in Moorhead, Miss. Fellow church members Sam and Mary Young shed tears as they sat in the pews staring at the casket.

“I don't think the local authorities have done enough. He didn't take his own life. This story has to be continued to be made known,” said Mr. Young.

“A lot of people here are upset because the media has a lot to do with it. They keep reporting that he killed himself but from what we have seen that is not the case. We don't believe it,” said Mrs. Young.

The victim's ex-girlfriend, Ryan Andrews, drove in from Tennessee to attend the services. She first met Mr. Carter in his home state of Massachusetts.

“He had too much going on for himself to take his own life. It wouldn't make sense. He was great in every aspect of his personality. He was so inspirational that he made it popular among young people to believe in God,” said Ms. Andrews, 23.

A repast was held at East Sunflower Elementary School following the funeral. Ms. Carter's cousin, Woodrow Adams, could not hold back his tears as he comforted other relatives.

“We have to get to the bottom of this because my cousin didn't do this to himself. As a family we have to come together and stay strong. We have to make people aware of the situation and bring light to it,” said Mr. Adams.

State Senator David Jordan Photos: Ansar El
Several community leaders have come under scrutiny for calling for a federal probe and for being instrumental in getting the gruesome photos released to the public. Pictures of Mr. Carter hanging from the tree have been circulated on the Internet via news outlets and social networking sites.

“People telling me it was disrespectful for us to release these photos even though the mother approved it. It is even more disrespectful that a Black man is found hanging from a tree in 2010 and his life is not respected. So we're not going to back off of this and we're going to keep the pressure on,” said State Senator David Jordan, who got permission from the mother to distribute the photos.

“This was totally suspicious from day one. Our sheriff decided to call this a suicide with no detailed investigation. I have a problem with the claim of suicide hitting the papers based on a one sheet preliminary autopsy,” said State Rep. Willie Perkins of the Leflore County NAACP branch.

“I find it rather strange that he (Mr. Carter) would go all the way to an area that has been a majority White neighborhood just to kill himself. I think there is more evidence out there that will clearly show that this was nothing but a murder,” said Mr. Perkins.

“We're looking forward to seeing the results of the second autopsy. Until then we have to be very observant with our eyes and ears open. We have to bring closure to this,” said Pastor Eddie Carthan of Tchula, Miss.

Related news:

Blacks doubt death in small Southern town is a suicide (FCN, 12-16-2010)