Sheriff: Preliminary autopsy shows Oakes drowned; says situation is being ‘blown out of proportion’
In the wake of a tragedy that left a 19-year-old man dead, some are airing their emotions online – and that has some residents of the Hampton community worried.
On Thursday the Elizabethton Star received reports from members of the community regarding what they felt was an alarming reaction to the death.
Colton Oakes’ death is being investigated by the Carter County Sheriff’s Department with assistance from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Oakes’ body was discovered Wednesday in a cattle pond on private property located near Coleman Road in Hampton.
He was last seen in the early morning hours on Tuesday, when a deputy investigating a complaint of a trespasser found him near the residence the complaint originated from. He and the deputy scuffled, but Oakes was able to escape and fled on foot. Officers searched the area but were unable to find him.
“We are treating it as a homicide investigation, but it appears to be an accidental drowning,” Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes said on Wednesday. “There are no signs of foul play. There were no visible injuries on the body. Everything points to it being an accident.”
On Thursday afternoon, Mathes said the autopsy had been completed and the preliminary results were in.
“I just came back from the autopsy. The boy drowned,” Mathes said shortly after 3 p.m. on Thursday. “There were no other footprints around the pond. In reviewing evidence including preliminary autopsy results, no foul play is suspected in the accidental drowning death of Colton Oakes.”
One woman who contacted the Elizabethton Star on Thursday said there had been multiple posts to the social media site Twitter calling for “Justice for Colton.” The woman, whose name is being withheld to protect her identity, also shared items from her social media news feed with the Elizabethton Star showing the comments she said caused her concern.
A check of the popular site Twitter by the Elizabethton Star found posts identified with the hashtag #JusticeForColton. A hashtag is a function on Twitter which allows users to link related items by using a common hashtag. Other posts about Oakes death were also found that had not been marked with the hashtag.
Many of the social media posts that began showing up after the discovery of Oakes’ body raised questions about whether the death was accidental, and some claimed threats had been posted online against Oakes. However, no threats were found in a search of Twitter by the Star on Thursday.
The woman who spoke to the Elizabethton Star said she and other residents of the community feared some attempt at retaliation might be made or that the family who reported the trespassing would be harassed.
Mathes said he was aware of the Facebook and Twitter messages. He said they had been looked into, and that he felt the situation was being “blown out of proportion.”
Mathes reiterated there is no suspicion of foul play in Oakes’ death.
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