Teen’s autopsy results released
A forensic autopsy conducted in Sacramento Wednesday revealed that the death of 14-year-old Dejon Smith was caused by blunt force impact and that death was instantaneous, according to a South Lake Tahoe Police Department press release.
Evidence, statements and autopsy results all indicate Smith’s death was the result of a tragic act of nature and that no foul play was involved in his death, the press release stated.
Searchers found Smith under a large heavy pine tree to the rear of a vacation residence backing up to a meadow, approximately a quarter to half a mile from a previously searched location. Smith was found surrounded by several branches of various sizes such that he was almost completely concealed from view.
The pine tree was approximately 4-feet in diameter at its base. At about 12 feet high, the tree grew into three separate trunks and continued with mature branches to a height of approximately 60 feet.
The tree broke about 9 feet above the ground. The remaining 50 feet fell toward the house, smashing through a wrought iron fence surrounding the backyard of the residence in which Smith was found. The top of the tree struck a second story balcony of the home as it fell.
The tree was too large and heavy to be removed manually from the body and firefighters had to use chainsaws to section the tree into several pieces to manage the removal of the body.
Smith left home on Dec. 11 after he had reportedly told his parents he intended to go out for the evening because school had been cancelled for the next day as a result of the severe storm then occurring, according to the press release. He was not specific as to where he was going or with whom he would be.
His parents had reported that Smith had gone missing in the recent past and was located in the valley area of Douglas County.
Within five minutes of clearing the initial call, Smith’s identifying information was entered into the Missing Unidentified Persons System (MUPS). MUPS is a national database used by law enforcement to check those they contact in the field.
According to the press release, nearly 23 percent of juveniles who run away from South Lake Tahoe are found in other jurisdictions. Investigating officers conducted a search around Smith’s neighborhood at the time of the initial report but were unable to find him. His parents had no further investigative leads at this time to indicate where he may be found.
The following day, Smith’s parents received a phone tip, which involved a specific minor who may have been in Smith’s company at the time he went missing. Smith’s parents forwarded the information to the police, who discovered the minor was in Carson City.
The minor admitted to police he had been with Smith during the storm “checking out houses” in a neighborhood near a meadow.
The minor described hearing a very loud crash but denied seeing a tree fall, the press release stated. He was frightened and ran away.
The minor believed Smith likely did the same, but he had not seen him since.
The minor provided a detailed description of the location for a search, which included the description of a house with a fallen tree behind it.
Officers responded to the area and found a house with a fallen tree behind it as described. Several officers responded and conducted a search of the area, but were not able to find Smith. Officers called Smith’s father to the scene to inform him of the circumstances and to show him the area as described.
He was eventually found on Saturday.
Investigators still have several people to question, the press release stated. The number, identity and activity of those in Smith’s company at the time of his death are still being investigated and confirmed. Tips can be given to the SLTPD at (530) 542-6100 or to Lake Tahoe Secret Witness at (530) 541-6800.