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Did this teenage boy commit suicide or was he murdered?
On August the 21, 1989, 17 year-old Norman Ladner left his parents’ country store to go hunting on the family farm near Picayune, Mississippi. Norman was a popular high school student who loved the outdoors. He knew his family’s 122 acre property like the back of his hand. According to Norman Ladner Sr., his son was late coming home:
When Norman Sr. seached the property, he found his son lying on the ground:
A single gunshot to the head had taken the young man’s life. Just after 10 PM, the Sheriff’s Department arrived. They roped off the area and began their investigation. From the start, Pearl River County Sheriff Lorance Lumpkin said he didn’t suspect a crime had occurred:
Norman’s father said the coroner also told him that it was an accidental death:
However, Norman’s family was in for a terrible shock. When the official ruling came down, the coroner said Norman did not die from an accident: he committed suicide. The coroner’s decision was based on the fact that Norman died from a close contact head wound. The bullet entered his right temple and exited his left. It was a very typical suicide wound. Sheriff Lumpkin speculated:
Norman Sr. couldn’t see how that was possible:
There were other problems. Norman’s wallet with $140 dollars was missing. He had a 1 ¼ inch long cut on top of his head. If Norman had committed suicide, how did that cut get there? Authorities said the head wound was caused by a bloody tree root found at the scene. Again, Norman Sr. didn’t see how that was possible:
Norman’s parents began their own investigation. They dug in the dirt area where their son had fallen to see if they could find the bullet that had taken his life. Norman Sr. found a bullet:
Sheriff Lumpkin doesn’t think the Ladners found the bullet that killed Norman:
Norman’s mother had a different theory:
The Ladners gave the bullet to a state ballistics expert, but he couldn’t tell if it had come from Norman’s rifle. And, when they were given back the bullet, they claim it was not the same one they had found. A few weeks later, Norman’s parents went to the coroner’s office to question his ruling. His mother said a stranger interrupted their conversation:
Unfazed, Norman’s father returned to the area where his son had died. Three hundred yards away, he found a strange, radio-like device that looked home-made. State authorities said it was not an important clue, but a neighbor suggested he show it to an ex-narcotics agent who lived in the area. Norman Sr. recalled what he was told:
Norman believes that his son came upon drug dealers in the woods, and they killed him because they didn’t want any eyewitnesses. Authorities continue to stand by the coroner’s ruling, but Norman’s mother says it was nothing less than cold-blooded murder: