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The couple were going through a rough patch in their relationship, but they had a 3-month-old child together, and the year-old Jones wanted to reconcile. At some point, Jones walked out, leaving Rankin inside.
His body was slumped under the young pecan tree, a blue and white cloth belt wrapped around his neck. A yellow nylon cord attached to the buckle was tied around a branch of the tree. The sheriff's department ruled the hanging a suicide; Jones' family believes he was lynched. The case has touched a raw nerve in a state whose past is tainted by the frequent lynchings of Black people, and at a time of national reckoning over how law enforcement interacts with African Americans and other minorities. Jones' family refuses to accept the sheriff's ruling and is asking that the case be reopened.
O'Bryant said he then saw Jones walk across the front yard with a rope in his hand, but he said he didn't take the threat seriously. She said he had a sports injury that prevented him from being able to lift his arm above his head, something she said would have made it physically impossible to hang himself. At the same time, he said, his family has been forced to move from their home. Similar allegations have arisen in other states. Just last week in Massachusetts, the family of a year-old Black girl who was found dead in a wooded area in April were contesting a medical examiner's finding that she hanged herself from a tree.
And in the spring offamily members and activists immediately called for further investigation after four Black people were found hanging from trees in the span of one month in California, New York and Texas.
Authorities ruled every Need a hung blk man to be a suicide. Civil rights activists have asserted that Black people are less likely to take their own lives by hanging. There is understandable distrust of law enforcement within the Black community because of a long history in the U. From Reconstruction throughwhen lynchings were at their highest, Mississippi had more than any other state, according to the Equal Justice Initiative. During that time, the state had lynchings compared to in Georgia and in Louisiana.
Today, Sheriff Mike Lee noted, Scott County is a melting pot where people live and work together peacefully, largely because of the factories and mills in the area. Lee, who is white, rejects the idea that Jones was lynched.
He said he trusts the work of his investigators on the case, many of whom are Black. A grand jury saw the evidence and did not think there was reason to prosecute, however. He had a Black stepfather, has five biracial grandchildren and has lived in majority-Black neighborhoods all his life. In fact, that could be more of a reason for O'Bryant to lash out, she said.
He did acknowledge that when he was young, he was told in church that interracial dating was wrong. He added that he liked Jones, who was respectful and helped him on building projects. Rankin is now married to a Black man. She said O'Bryant has never tried to dissuade her from dating someone of another race. He was a talented sketch artist, played for the high school football team and had dreams of being a supervisor on an oil pipeline.
He met Rankin in eighth grade and they began dating in Their baby boy was born later that year. Jones stayed at the O'Bryants' house often, the family said. She said they didn't say anything about him trying to hurt himself. When she called back not long afterward, someone on the other end of the line told her he had hanged himself.
By the time Townsend arrived at the home, the street was already cordoned off with crime scene tape. When she was finally able to view his body, she saw what looked like scratch marks and cigarette burns. An autopsy did not reveal s of foul play, they said. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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Editorial: Two Black men hanging from trees in Southern California? Leave no stone unturned investigating