Dean Poling and Brittany McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times
No foul play is suspected in the death of a student whose body was discovered Friday morning in Lowndes High School’s old gymnasium, said Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine Friday evening, but the investigation continues.
Though people had posted a student’s name on Facebook, other social media and the Internet throughout Friday, both the sheriff and Lowndes County School Superintendent Wes Taylor said in a joint statement they would not release the student’s name Friday night pending positive confirmation of the teenager’s identity.
The sheriff told The Times he wants to have a positive identification prior to releasing a name.
The no foul-play ruling also defied numerous Internet posts and messages that speculated upon various causes of death.
“Although the exact cause of death is yet to be determined, as of this stage of the investigation, nothing has been discovered to indicate foul play was involved,” Prine said in the statement.
That does not mean the investigation has been concluded. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is assisting the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators spent hours on the scene Friday, from early morning to past nightfall.
The student’s body will be sent Monday to a state crime lab for an autopsy which authorities hope will determine an exact cause of death, according to the sheriff’s office.
Taking all precautions, Prine told The Times, investigators worked the death scene as a suspected homicide throughout most of the day until the possibility of no foul play became evident later in the afternoon. The sheriff said he could not comment further on an ongoing
Receiving the call of a body discovered on the Lowndes High campus shortly after the start of Friday’s school day, Lowndes County sheriff’s deputies and emergency medical technicians converged on the scene. Meanwhile, students began texting and calling friends and families that a body had been discovered.
Soon, parents began arriving at Lowndes High School seeking their children. For a period of time, deputies and school officials would neither allow anyone to enter or leave the Lowndes High School premises. Students continued attending classes.
By early afternoon, the Lowndes County School System issued a phone message to all school parents. It read: “The Lowndes County Schools regrets that one of our students from Lowndes High School is deceased. The appropriate authorities are investigating. We will release further information as it is confirmed. Classes are continuing at Lowndes High, and all schools will dismiss at their regular times today. No schools are under lockdown.”
Once parents were allowed onto campus, a steady parade of cars lined the Lowndes High campus through the early afternoon to pick up students.
One parent, Rhoda Ross-Williams, expressed concern that she and other parents learned of the death and investigation from students posting to Facebook and texting from inside of Lowndes High instead of from school officials.
Lowndes High student Brittney Tabedo said, “Finding out, you just kind of freak out because you don’t know who it is and you don’t know where they’re at, but whoever it was, wherever they’re at, you just kind of get scared because of that.”
Later in the evening, the Lowndes-Brunswick basketball game, scheduled as a Lowndes home game, was cancelled.
“We are confident that the campus of Lowndes High School is safe for the return of students on Monday,” said Sheriff Prine.
Lowndes County School Superintendent Wes Taylor issued the statement: “We are deeply saddened that the body of a Lowndes High student was discovered today on the LHS campus. Our hearts are burdened for the family, friends, students, staff, and our community.”