FERRIER FILES: New witnesses speak about Lauren Agee's death
NASHVILLE, Tenn. —
Lauren Agee died while on a camping trip with friends in July of 2015. The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department ruled it an accidental death.
Lauren Agee was camping with Christopher Stout, Hannah Palmer and Aaron Lilly, with the campsite was set up by Brix Heydrich.
All four are being sued by the family for wrongful death. The lawsuit alleges those four covered up Agee's death, and that the death is a homicide not an accident. It also says the investigation was insufficient.
In the DCSD's final report, an investigator says differently.
"During the course of the investigation I talked with friends, family members, bystanders and other Law Enforcement Officers about the case and did not find any evidence of foul play."
No one ever talked to two police officers who were immediately on the scene. Chris Yarchuck and Ryan Melenson are both reserve police officers with White County and run the private security on lower Broadway.
At the time of Agee's death, they were a White County patrolman and sergeant.
Yarchuck and Melenson said they had strange conversations with the people camping with Lauren Agee and saw evidence they thought was ignored.
“I had faith with them at the time, that they would do their job, that they would get to the bottom of it,” said Deputy Melenson. "Unfortunately I'm not sure what all happened with their investigation, but here we are today."
What is never mentioned anywhere in the police report is an autopsy photo of Agee’s abdomen. It's a photograph that officer Yarchuck can't stop thinking about. The autopsy photo that shows the outline of a triangle inside a triangle on her midsection.
“The photo of the abdomen with a perfect V and a handle: Anyone who has been in a canoe will recognize that is the canoe's bow or stern,” said officer Yarchuck. "It was as if someone laid her on a canoe after she was dead. Lividity sets in, the blood pools and leaves a mark like that."
“There was only one thing that could make that mark on her abdomen and that would have been the bow or stern of the canoe,” said Yarchuck. "It is a perfect imprint captured on film, and it's indisputable in my mind. It is a key piece of evidence in this case."
Never interviewed; these two officers were the ones who first picked up Stout and Lilly for questioning.
"When we got them into the pontoon boat with us Aaron [Lilly] told Chris [Stout] to shut up, 'I will tell them the story, don't say anything!' and for me that’s red flags everywhere,”said Yarchuck.
When they were alone with Officer Melenson, he heard one of the strangest things anyone has ever said to him.
“At one point he was looking at my sidearm I asked 'what you thinking over there," Officer Melenson said. "He said I am thinking how am I going to get that gun off your hip and get off this boat. I said 'that is not going to happen.' About 10 minutes later he said it again. He wanted off that boat."
Remember what DeKalb County said about the investigation?
"During the course of the investigation I talked with friends, family members, bystanders and other Law Enforcement Officers about the case, and did not find any evidence of foul play."
You would think that would include speaking to the last person known to have seen Lauren Agee alive, but Evan Shelton said no one ever spoke with him.
“I am flabbergasted,” said Shelton. “Lauren left the bar in great spirits. And she was not intoxicated. She was normal. Normal Lauren."
Would you interview the woman who called 911? And the man who spoke with the friends immediately after the body was found? Harry and Deana Elder say police never spoke to them.
“I want there to be a voice,” Deana Shelton said. "I want someone to listen to what has happened. Look at the evidence and figure this out."
Harry Elder is thinking about that canoe.
"That bothered me that nobody collected the canoe," Elder said. "Their only transportation to the cliffs, the boys only transportation to the campsite and there it sat untouched."
We reached out to all parties involved including the defendants and the DeKalb County Sheriff Department. No one has made a comment.