Read Nicholas Phillips' feature story here, "Tears of a Town: Racial tensions flare in the wake of the hanging death of Lester Wells Jr."
The rumors swirling around the death of a Cahokia teenager found hanging from a train trestle last week just won't stop.
Did 15-year-old Lester Wells Jr. really kill himself? Or was he the victim of white supremacists bent on killing any black person they could? Two recent stories on Daily RFT each generated dozens of comments pointing toward conspiracy.
(See the following...
- Teen Found Hanging From Cahokia Bridge
- Police Say Cahokia Teen Hanged Himself, Mother Alleges Foul Play)
Now the Cahokia police chief is saying enough is enough.
Speaking to the Belleville News-Democrat today, chief Rick Watson says the rumors of a hate crime are unfounded.
"I just want to let the community know that none of this is going on," Watson said. "It's a tragedy and let's not make it more of a tragedy. ... Please stop the rumors. Let's deal with the facts."
Yesterday the Cahokia police department released a report on Wells' death that revealed the following:
- Wells was found hanging off an old railroad trestle about 7:30 a.m. April 25 by a levee district employee on a routine check of water levels. The bridge is located behind the Cahokia Police Department shooting range at 600 Levin Drive.
- Wells had a multicolored bedsheet tied around his neck, and the sheet was tied to a support under the bridge. He was hanging about 3 to 5 inches off the ground.
- Police took photos and other evidence before removing the body.
- Wells' clothing was clean and there were no signs of a struggle on his body.
Wells' mother, Crystal Teague, does not believe her son killed himself and has said that her son was seen getting into a fight with three other teens on the night of April 24 -- the night he allegedly killed himself.
Oddly, perhaps, given the amount of speculation surrounding Wells' death, the St. Clair County Coroner has not performed an autopsy on the body.