FBI, other investigators want rumors to stop in Veal suicide

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 17, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; A lengthy investigation by local and state law enforcement and the FBI, as well as a grand jury, determined that Wilkinson County native Roy Malcolm Veal hanged himself last spring near his mother’s home.

But e-mail and Internet rumors persist Veal’s death was a lynching.

On Monday, investigators who handled the case worked to put a stop to those rumors.

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&uot;It is unfortunate that some people want to perpetuate the stereotype of the old Mississippi, and have used Mr. Veal’s suicide as a means to accomplish this by espousing statements that are not grounded in fact and do not resemble, in any way, the findings of our investigation,&uot; Public Safety Commissioner Rusty Fortenberry said.

Roy Veal was found hanging from a tree in rural Wilkinson County on April 23. The Wilkinson County native, who had since moved to Washington state, had been visiting his mother.

Even as law enforcement began their investigation, rumors began circulating on the Internet that the case might be a lynching. Months after the incident, those rumors persist through e-mail chains and phone calls to newspapers and to law enforcement offices.

Investigations on the scene of the incident were conducted by the Wilkinson County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Reginald Jackson, assisted by the Department of Public Safety and the Wilkinson County coroner’s office. All were monitored by the FBI.

After extensive evidence was taken and interviews were conducted, Wilkinson County Coroner Travis Sharpe ruled the case a suicide.

&uot;All the agencies involved in this case did a great job investigating all the evidence,&uot; Sharpe said.

&uot;In my opinion, if Sheriff Jackson had any doubts about this case, he would have been the first to speak up.&uot;

No evidence of foul play was discovered, and the evidence collected was consistent with the ruling of suicide, the FBI said Monday.

&uot;We conducted this investigation at the request of Wilkinson County Sheriff Reggie Jackson. It is our policy to defer to the lead law enforcement officer to speak publicly for his or her jurisdiction at the completion of the investigation.

We handled this case no differently than any other, working within our responsibilities, both legally and according to agency policy, to preserve the integrity of the investigation,&uot; Fortenberry said.

Even after the investigations were completed, results were turned over to the judicial system for further study. A grand jury convened June 14 by Circuit Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders reviewed the findings and determined the case was a suicide.

&uot;Because of the widespread interest in this case,&uot; District Attorney Ronnie L. Harper said, &uot;my office painstakingly reviewed the evidence collected in the tragic death of Mr. Veal. The grand jury was provided a lengthy, detailed presentation of all evidence accumulated, reviewed it thoroughly, and made their findings independent of influence from the D.A.’s office, the agencies involved in the investigation or anyone else.&uot;

FBI officials said Monday that the bureau monitored the investigation from the beginning. Jackson and his department cooperated with investigators.

&uot;Based on the investigation conducted, which was exhaustive, I will request no further investigation in this matter, as all evidence at this time indicates that Roy Veal’s death was a suicide and there is no evidence of a Federal criminal violation,&uot; U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton said.