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What happened to Lermont Stower-Jones?

What happened to Lermont Stower-Jones?

Who was Lermont Stower-Jones?

At the time of his death on November 19, 2018, Lermont Stower-Jones, known to his loved ones as “Mont” was a 17-year-old Senior on the A-B Honor Roll at Denton High School. With plans to attend college after graduation, Mont hoped to pursue a career in criminal justice, perhaps even join the police force. In his free time, Mont enjoyed an overwhelming love for music and dancing. He played keyboard and frequently performed at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, where he attended with his family. 

Trouble by association.

In April 2018, Mont found himself hanging out with some older adult males he didn’t know very well. While driving around, these adults stopped into a pawn shop, and unfortunately, the items they pawned were later identified as stolen property obtained during a home burglary. When authorities reviewed the pawnshop footage, Mont and the two men he was with were identified. Both the surveillance footage and pawnshop records revealed that Mont had no involvement in the pawn interaction. 

Certain of his innocence, when Mont was informed that he was a burglary suspect, he immediately went to the police station to clear his name with law enforcement.

Without his parents or an attorney, Mont offered Denton police everything he knew about the two men he was with that day and his knowledge of their activities. He was then charged and immediately jailed for the home burglary crime. A few months later, Mont was indicted and sentenced to probation for the crime of being young and Black at the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people. 

A teenage dispute over a girl. 

On November 6, 2018, Mont was involved in an altercation at school with a white student named *Timothy Todd. According to Mont’s friends, the fight was over a girl. The incident was caught on video and footage quickly circulated around the school and community. Mont and Timothy were both suspended. Mont was immediately grounded to his house and his parents took his cell phone away.

When Mont’s sister returned home late that evening after a school basketball game, she informed her parents that kids on the bus were talking about the fight, and there was a rumor circulating that Timothy planned to bring a gun to school when he and Mont returned. 

Mont’s father, Lermon Jones immediately emailed Mont’s Assistant Principal to report the threat. Early the following morning, he sent a second email with details regarding the police report the family filed, and he identified Timothy as the child who made the threat. Timothy was ultimately expelled. 

As the rumor mill continued to churn, Mont began getting threats. 

Upset about Timothy’s expulsion, he and his family continued to fuel drama regarding his altercation with Mont. Though an initial video posted on social media showed Timothy as the aggressor in the fight, it was quickly replaced by an edited version which cut out the initial interaction so as to make it appear as though Mont made an initial and unprovoked punch. It didn’t take long before an erroneous narrative began to swirl throughout the community. As this video continued to circulate online, friends and family members of Timothy Todd began hurling racial comments and threats towards Mont in social media comments.    

Once Mont completed his suspension and returned to school the following week, he continued to face racial harassment and threats in person at school every day until November 16th, 2018, the last day before the Thanksgiving break.

During that last week of school, Mont’s mother Amy Sowers-Jones noticed that a car was frequently parked outside of their home, but only when Mont was there. Concerned about the threats and activity around their property, the family installed security cameras outside their home. 

Mont’s first probation check-in.

November 16, 2018, wasn’t just the last day of school, it was also the day of Mont’s first probation check-in for his wrongful home burglary conviction earlier that June. Mont passed his drug test, and the probation officer told his father he was confident that Mont’s legal troubles had really alarmed the young teen. According to Lermon Jones, Mont’s probation officer explained to him that Mont was aware he had associated with the wrong people, and that Mont was on the right path forward by choosing his friends more wisely. Lermon Jones was relieved to hear these encouraging words from Mont’s P.O.

The last time Lermon Jones saw his son alive. 

The following Monday, November 19, 2018, was the first day of Thanksgiving break. Jones took his son back to the probation office for another check-in, and he was instructed to take his son to the Denton County Courthouse to set up his restitution payments. 

On the drive over, Mont’s mom called and the three of them spoke about the situation together.

Mont told his parents what a wake-up call the whole experience was, and how he planned to make better choices. Grounded for the altercation at school for the two weeks prior, Mont’s parents agreed to lift his punishment for the holiday break. 

Happy to be ungrounded, Mont told his mom he wanted to hang out with a friend after he was done at the courthouse. He said he would call later if he needed a ride. Amy Stowers-Jones and Lermon Jones then said goodbye to their son for the last time as Lermon and Mont pulled up to the parking lot of the Denton County County Courthouse. Mont exited the vehicle and his father watched him approach the building. Jones never saw his son alive again.

Mont never called his mom for a ride, and he didn’t come home that evening. He had previously spent the night at friends’ houses and forgot to call, so his parents disappointedly assumed he was being irresponsible. They weren’t particularly alarmed. 

The Basketball game.

The next morning, Tuesday, November 20, 2018, Mont’s parents attended their daughter’s basketball game at Denton High. Immediately, his mother Amy noticed that some of the children were acting strangely towards them. Many who would normally say hi just stared and whispered to others nearby. After the game, Jones dropped his wife and daughter back at home and headed back out to work. 

Lermon Jones gets a series of calls from law enforcement. 

At 12:26 PM, Jones received a call from an individual who identified himself only as a City of Denton police officer. 

“Do you have a son named Lermont?” he asked. Jones confirmed that he did. 

“Do you know where he is?” he asked. Jones informed him Mont was at a friend’s house. 

“They are looking for him at Old Alton Bridge, someone said he jumped in,” the officer said. 

“That isn’t possible,” Jones told the officer, “I’ll find him.”

Jones hung up with the officer, turned his car around, and headed back home to his wife. As he approached the house fifteen minutes later, the same officer called back. “They are definitely looking for your son’s body,” the officer said. “ I’m going to give your number to the Game Warden on the scene and he’ll call you right back.”

A few minutes later, Texas Game Warden Captain Cliff Swofford called Jones and reported that authorities had been looking for Lermont in Hickory Creek since the previous morning. In disbelief, Jones again insisted that wasn’t possible. Swofford responded, “I don’t think so either, we’ve searched every inch of this entire creek and scanned it with drones. Your son isn’t out there, you should probably be out looking for him.”

Heeding the instructions of the Game Warden Captain, Mont’s parents and three siblings all piled into the car and began to drive around Denton to check out his normal hang-outs. Not finding her son anywhere, Stower-Jones became increasingly anxious and demanded her husband call the Game Warden back to ask why they thought Mont was in the water?

Not an hour-and-a-half after Jones received the initial call from an anonymous Denton PD Officer, Jones called Game Warden Swafford back and was immediately informed, “We just found your son and he is deceased. Can you come to identify the body? ”

The family arrived on the scene.

Approximately 20 minutes later, the family pulled into the small parking lot near Old Alton Bridge. A Game Warden named Jerry Norris greeted them and directed them to Mont’s body, which was already in the back of a City of Argyle ambulance nearby.

Heartbroken and distraught, Stower-Jones remained in the car with her other three children. 

Norris and Jones entered the back of the ambulance, Norris unzipped a body bag to just below the chin of the person inside. 

It was Jones’ son, Lermont Stower-Jones, only 17 years old, lying there dead. 

November 20, 2018, was the worst day of Lermon Jones and Amy Stower-Jones’ life. They lost their son, a tragedy that no parent should ever go through. But this day wasn’t just devastating in regards to the loss of their son. Right away, they knew that nothing about his death seemed right. 

Though Mont had supposedly just been recovered from the creek within the last 20 minutes of his arrival, Jones noticed that there wasn’t any water on the ground leading up to or in the back of the ambulance. His son too appeared completely dry. Additionally, the scene at the bridge did not look as if there was an investigation underway. There wasn’t even crime scene tape blocking off public access. 

The Game Warden never asked Mont’s parents any questions about Mont or the incident, nor did he offer any information. 

As Mont’s family prepared to leave the place where they thought their son took his last breath, a man pulled up, got out of his car, and headed over to the family to introduce himself as Bob Murphy, Forensic Death Investigator for the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office. 

Murphy gave Jones his contact information and told the family where they should go to identify Mont’s body. “We’ve already identified my son,” Jones told him. Murphy seemed surprised. 

As he walked away from Mont’s family, still well within ear-shot, Jones overheard Murphy say to Game Warden Norris, “No one should have touched, moved, or viewed the body before I got here.”

Why was Mont’s body moved to the ambulance before the forensic death investigator arrived to assess and document the scene? 

Location, Location, Location. The Legend of Goatman’s Bridge

In order to fully understand the disturbing circumstances surrounding Mont’s murder, we need to address the location where Mont’s body was reportedly discovered. According to official accounts, Mont’s body was recovered from the waters of Hickory Creek, just below the Old Alton Bridge, a site associated with a locally notorious legend of the “Goatman,” a Black goat-farmer named Oscar Washburn lynched from the bridge by the Ku Klux Klan during the early twentieth century.

As legend has it, as Washburn’s goat business began to grow, he placed an advertisement sign on the bridge which read, “This way to the Goatman,” and his success enraged the local Klan. The legend culminates with a grotesque account of how a lynch-mob of hooded Klansmen raided Washburn’s home, drug him out of it, and drug him down to the bridge where a noose awaited him. As Oscar Washburn pleaded for his life, the murderous Klansmen wrapped the rope around his neck and swung him over the bridge.

The legend continues that after Washburn was thrown over the bridge, Klansmen headed down the embankment to admire their handiwork only to find an empty noose swinging over undisturbed waters. Enraged that they couldn’t find their would-be victim, the Klansmen then returned to the Washburn family home, set the house on fire, and watched it burn as Washburn’s wife and children screamed from within. 

Graffiti found on “Goatman’s Bridge” in Denton in the months following Mont’s murder that reads, “❤️️normal white ppl”

The legend continues that after Washburn was thrown over the bridge, Klansmen headed down the embankment to admire their handiwork only to find an empty noose swinging over undisturbed waters. Enraged that they couldn’t find their would-be victim, the Klansmen then returned to the Washburn family home, set the house on fire, and watched it burn as Washburn’s wife and children screamed from within. 

This is the legend of how Denton’s Old Altman’s Bridge came to be known as “Goatman’s Bridge.” While local historians have searched desperately for evidence relating to this horrific account to no avail, the local area has a deep-rooted and well-documented history of similar acts of Klan violence during the early twentieth century, including multiple lynchings.

Press Reports the Evening of Mont’s Discovery

On the evening of November 20, 2018, the Denton Record-Chronicle published an article that said a teen was found dead after jumping from the bridge. Argyle assistant fire chief Michael Lugo was provided several search and rescue details. In a direct quotation, Lugo reported to the paper that Mont’s body was found at 12:15 PM earlier that day. 

Yet, at 12:26 PM, Jones received a call from a Denton Police Officer who said there was an ongoing search for Mont’s body. At 12:40 PM, the same officer confirmed the same information again. At 12:47 PM, Game Warden Captain Swofford told Jones by phone that after an extensive search, he didn’t think Mont was in the creek and sent the family out to search for Mont. Recall that it wasn’t until shortly after 2 PM when Mont’s family called Capt. Swofford, that they were informed Mont’s body had supposedly just been discovered.

Why did the Argyle Assistant Fire Chief who was reportedly leading search and rescue efforts at the time state that Mont was found before all of these calls were made? 

Why were there time discrepancies? 

All of Mont’s friends believed he was murdered. 

Upon leaving the scene of Mont’s recovery, his family immediately searched for the fight videos online to send to police but found that they were all deleted.

The following day, Mont’s siblings began to hear rumors that Mont was murdered. Dozens of teenagers fearfully reached out to Mont’s family members on social media begging for anonymity to report they had heard people talking about Mont’s murder. Wild rumors of Mont’s supposed torture and possible genital disfigurement before his death also began to circulate. 

A slew of news articles. 

In the week after Mont was murdered, there was a slew of news articles in the Denton Record-Chronicle and the local Fox News affiliate. Every article was based on interviews with or press releases from local authorities, and each one provided conflicting details about what happened. 

While these local officials made time to converse with news publications and ensure control over the public narrative surrounding Mont’s death, they never once contacted Mont’s family. Each time the family attempted to reach out, they were told that investigators would call back. Day after day, those calls never came. 

Mont’s body is released.

Two weeks after his death, Mont’s body was finally released to the family. Though, his autopsy report was not yet completed pending a toxicology report. Still, without any communication from local authorities, it was the Funeral Director who had to put an end to the weeks of ugly rumors regarding Mont’s disfigurement. He was the first to confirm for the family that Mont’s body was intact.

Terrified that Mont’s grave might be disrupted and distraught by the failure of the local community to speak out about what happened to their son, the family buried Mont’s body hundreds of miles north of Denton in an Oklahoma cemetery. 

Law Enforcement finally meets with the family.

After several more ignored requests, Mont’s family was finally able to secure their first meeting with local authorities to discuss the supposed circumstances surrounding his death. On December 5, 2018, sixteen days after Mont’s disappearance into the waters of Hickory Creek, Mont’s Aunt and by this time, family spokesperson Angela James, his father Lermon Jones, and 3 NAACP advocates gathered at the Denton County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) with Criminal Investigation Captain Eddie Barrett, Lead Investigator Kincy Lloyd, and Texas Ranger Clair Barnes. 

Authorities claim Mont climbed up on the rails of “Goatman’s Bridge” in the morning hours of Nov. 19, 2018 in temperatures below 50 degrees and jumped into the murky stagnant waters of Hickory Creek.

Law enforcement asked several questions before offering any information at all, the meeting began with law enforcement quizzing family members to determine what they already knew. The family immediately took to a discussion about the fight that took place at school and the threats made against Mont which continued up until his death. They informed law enforcement about the anonymous calls and messages from children saying Mont was murdered hoping they would want to follow up and interview the children. 

Texas Ranger Clair Barnes, who was clearly the head official in charge of the meeting, immediately dismissed the family’s concerns. 

The officials drew a timeline on a white-board. They said courthouse surveillance footage showed that Mont left the property at 10:06 AM in the back seat of a white Chevy Impala. The Ranger claimed that Mont spent the next 30 to 40 minutes driving around smoking weed with other teens in the car, that they did not go to the bridge on purpose, but just “wound up there.” He told the family that immediately after arriving at the bridge, Mont, a child who wouldn’t even wade in river water with his father while fishing, took off his clothes in temperatures below 50 degrees, and told the other children present, “I’m jumping in.”

According to Ranger Barnes, Mont’s death was just a tragic accident, and he initially identified four teenagers who supposedly witnessed Mont willingly jump from the bridge. First, Barnes identified James Miller,* a white teenager who, at the time, lived directly behind the Jones family. However, Ranger Barnes described James Miller as being Black. Fully aware of his neighbor James Miller’s identity, Jones corrected the Ranger. “James Miller is white,” he said. In response, Ranger Barnes became visibly irritated and proceeded to forcibly argue with Jones about the witness’’ race before he abruptly changed the subject. 

Ranger Barnes then identified three other Black teens who supposedly witnessed Mont jump from the bridge: *Curtis, *Jermain, and *Lavon. At the time, all three were still minors.

Recounting statements supposedly offered by these witnesses, Ranger Barnes told the family that Mont appeared to be in trouble after he jumped in, and that two boys jumped in after to try and save him. When those two boys could not help him, they both fled the scene out of fear that they would be in trouble for being under the influence and in possession of drugs. Barnes claimed only one witness remained to call 911 at 11:27 AM. Barnes never accounted for the whereabouts of the first supposed witness whose race he initially described inaccurately.

Initially, Ranger Barnes told the family Mont went into the water and did not resurface, an account similar to that provided by authorities to the local press in the weeks leading up to the meeting. In response, one of the NAACP representatives present asked if Mont could swim. Ranger Barnes initially responded, “I’m not sure.” But after Monts father almost simultaneously replied, “Yes, he could,” the Ranger suddenly changed tone and proceeded with a thorough description of Mont’s swimming back and forth across the creek in a struggle. “He fought for 5 to 7 minutes,” he said. “Then he became disoriented before they lost sight of him.” 

The Ranger’s statement conflicted with other law enforcement official’s statements in the news. Why was there a discrepancy? 

Captain Barrett described the scene at the bridge, and Investigator Lloyd noted that Mont’s clothes were found folded on the bridge, along with his cell phone. The Ranger explained how a deputy interviewed a young Black teen named *Lavon who supposedly called 911 and remained at the scene. According to Barnes, Lavon initially told a DCSO Deputy that he was the only one with Mont at the time he jumped.  After providing his contact information, Denton County deputies allowed him to leave the scene. 

If Lavon was Mont’s friend, why did he leave instead of waiting to see if his friend was found?

Why did Denton County Deputies allow Lavon to leave?

What teenage boy folds his clothes after taking them off, especially in the midst of a spontaneous jump off the bridge? 

Graffiti found on the “Goatman’s Bridge” in Denton in the months following Mont’s murder includes the “OK” white power symbol.

During this same meeting, DCSO Captain Barrett stated that when the Game Warden arrived, Lavon was called back to the scene for further questioning, at which time he admitted another teenager was present but he refused to identify them. Lavon was then allowed to leave again.

According to Barnes, he was brought into the investigation after a Game Warden expressed concern about this discrepancy in the witness’ statement. Though Barnes confirmed to the family that he is typically only called in to investigate murders and that Mont’s was still considered an open investigation, he told them that in Mont’s case, he had already decided that he was not investigating a homicide. 

Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Website.

A few days after his meeting with law enforcement, Jones checked the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s website and was shocked to see that Mont’s death was listed as an “accidental drowning”. Even more surprising, Mont’s date and time of death were listed as “11/20/2018 1:12 PM.” According to all of the press reports, as well as information provided to the family directly by the DCSO and Texas Ranger Clair Barns days before, Mont supposedly drowned on Nov. 19th at around 11:30 AM. 

Seeing this, Jones submitted an Open Records Request to the Medical Examiner’s (ME) Office for a copy of his son’s autopsy. The ME’s office initially responded that it was not yet completed, and, therefore, it could not be released. (The family learned later that the report had been completed two days prior to their request) The Tarrant County ME’s office never sent the family a copy of Mont’s autopsy report. 

Open information. 

Increasingly frustrated by the lack of communication and information coming from authorities, on December 14, 2018, Jones filed a Public Information Act request to obtain all records related to Mont’s previous criminal case, as well as all videos, records, and reports related to his death investigation. This request was also not fulfilled, as the DCSO immediately filed for an exemption with the Attorney General’s office. The department’s petition cited a need to protect the identities of other juvenile witnesses involved. Of course, the department conveniently omitted the fact that during their December 5th meeting with the family, officials had already revealed the names of other minors supposedly involved. 

Why wouldn’t Denton County Authorities want to alleviate any and all of the family’s doubts and concerns related to their investigation into Mont’s death?

What are the authorities hiding? Why are they protecting?

The family gets the autopsy report from the media

On December 19, 2018, exactly one month after Mont’s murder, his family finally received a copy of the autopsy report, but not from the ME’s office or local authorities. While out of town, Mont’s mother read a poorly executed Denton Record-Chronicle article by a local journalist who made several misleading statements regarding the autopsy. It wasn’t until later that day that she saw an email from the same reporter with a copy of the report. While the family’s request went ignored, the ME’s office fulfilled the request of a local reporter, along with a brief synopsis to guide what they should say about it. 

Just as Jones found on the ME’s website a week earlier, the official ME’s report stated that Mont’s died on Nov. 20, 2018, at 1:12 PM, again conflicting all prior official statements that Mont’s death occurred on Nov. 19, 2020, at approximately 11:30 AM, after which time he was supposedly submerged in the waters of Hickory Creek for 27 hours. This inaccuracy cannot be explained as coinciding with the date and time of recovery either, as these are listed separately in the report. 

Despite the largely inaccurate report outlined in the Denton Record-Chronicle, Mont’s autopsy revealed zero evidence of drowning. In fact, it shows an abundance of evidence to argue that Mont could not have possibly drowned. Among dozens of other disturbing findings, it shows that Mont’s lungs were normally expanded, and there was no fluid, mud, dirt, or debris of any kind from the creek found within either his lungs or stomach. 

The autopsy report also notes that Mont’s eyes showed tache noir, a condition that results only when a corpse’s eyes remain open after death and are exposed to air. More importantly, this condition only occurs within the first two hours after death. The presence of such a condition in a body recovered in water would typically be interpreted as unequivocal evidence that a person died out of the water and was then later submerged. 

Another oddity still yet to be explained is that the autopsy notes Mont was recovered in white boxer shorts. As the person who purchased and laundered all of his clothes, Mont’s mother has repeatedly argued that Mont did not own white boxer shorts. 

In September of 2020, after nearly two years of jumping through hoops, Mont’s family was finally able to get a copy of his death certificate. The official cause of death listed on Mont’s death certificate: UNKNOWN. 

Radio silence. 

Despite repeated calls for more information after their initial meeting with officials in December 2018, Mont’s family was never granted another meeting with investigators.  

On January 2, 2019, Mont’s aunt, Angela James finally pestered DCSO Captain Eddie Barrett into a phone conversation. During their call, Barrett started out by repeatedly denying that during their previous meeting, Ranger Barnes had initially identified the family’s white teen neighbor as having been present at the scene of Mont’s death. After repeating the Ranger’s words back to him multiple times, he finally agreed that yes, the white teen was initially identified by the Ranger as having been present. After James expressed concern and confusion regarding the supposed 911 call, Captain Barrett then offered to play it for her.  

Unfortunately, James was left more confused than reassured. The 911 call played by DCSO Capt. Barrett was edited. The initial and most critical details given at the beginning of the call, including the caller’s identification, their location, and the reason for the call were all cut out from the recording. All she could hear was a young man yelling out to at least two other individuals, only one of whom matched the name of another witness identified by authorities. Then the caller says, “I can’t see him. I see bubbles.” Someone in the background is then heard yelling, “GO, GO, GO.” This is all followed by heavy panting by the caller as if he was running before the call abruptly disconnects.

This phone call left the family bewildered. 

The family demands another meeting.

On January 4, 2019, Mont’s father and aunt, along with an NAACP advocate met with DCSO Captain Barrett in his office. None of the investigators assigned to Mont’s still technically open case were present. At the start of the meeting, Barrett started to repeat the claim that all of the teens identified by officials as present at the scene when Mont died were Black. This initiated another tense conversation, as Jones and James again reminded the Captain that during their initial December 5, 2018 meeting, Ranger Barnes explicitly identified a white teen familiar to the Jones family as having been present. Eventually, Captain Barrett again conceded to this fact. 

As this meeting progressed, Capt. Barrett told the family that the reason the DCSO took over the case from the Game Wardens who normally oversee accidental drownings in public bodies of water was that Lavon Gibson, the teen who supposedly called 911 and remained at the scene, initially lied to authorities. It was also during this meeting that Capt. Barrett introduced yet another supposed witness present at the scene at the time of Mont’s death, a Hispanic teen known as Sanchez* who supposedly offered Mont $20 to jump into the creek, and who also supposedly fled the scene. When Jones asked why the family had never been informed about this witness, Barrett said it was because Lavon Gibson gave officials so many different stories. 

Barrett proceeded to explain to the family that as a result of the lies told by this witness from the outset, all of the witnesses were not identified and interviewed immediately. He also admitted to them that this resulted in “ an evidentiary loss.” Though, he blamed this on the witness who initially lied. In response to this, Jones reminded Capt. Barrett that during their initial meeting on Dec. 5th, Ranger Barnes emphatically told the family that he had already identified and interviewed all of the witnesses who were at the scene. 

Jones and James both questioned him as to why the DCSO and Ranger Barnes refused to consider foul play? Why were they placing so much credence on the statements of a witness who they claimed lied from the outset, delaying the investigation and who continued to lie throughout the investigation? 

Barrett responded to these concerns by claiming that any conclusion law enforcement came to was based on the “physical evidence,” which, “in this kind of situation, is the 911 call,” he said. According to the Captain, the fact that 911 was called and that a witness remained served as evidence there was no foul play. 

If anything, a review of the 911 call should have immediately clued authorities to the fact that there was foul play and lying because the one witness supposedly identified on the scene as the caller who claimed that no one else was there can be heard calling out to other people in the 911 recording. 

Radio silence again

Between the January 4, 2019 meeting and May 3, 2019, Mont’s family continued to try and get information from law enforcement, but their calls continued to go unanswered and unreturned. On May 3rd, Jones finally received a text message from DCSO Captain Barrett who informed him that Mont’s case was closed. 

Despite this fact, the family was still not given any documentation regarding their son’s death or the investigation surrounding it. They have never been allowed to see the surveillance footage that supposedly shows Mont willingly leaving the Denton County Courthouse. Mont’s belongings, including his clothes, and the cell phone supposedly recovered along with them remain in “evidence.” Though, according to official reports, no crime was committed, which should then negate the possibility of the existence of any “evidence.” 

Mont’s parents accepted his diploma in the Spring of 2019 at Denton High School commencement ceremonies.

The continuous fight for records.

Between June 11, 2019, and September 24, 2019, the family continued to file open records requests for information related to Mont’s death, as well as those related to the burglary charge Mont received in 2018. The DCSO continued to get assistance from the Attorney General to block their access to most of the documents requested. 

It wasn’t until May 23, 2019, via the help of local activist and NAACP advocate Jessica Luther Rummel that the family received any official reports filed by the DCSO, and other agencies involved with the supposed investigation into Mont’s death. These reports are full of disturbing inconsistencies and discrepancies. 

Here are some of the details found among these reports:

  • In his initial statement to DCSO deputies at the scene, Lavon Gibson claimed that his aunt dropped him off at the bridge to meet Mont. One report notes that Gibson was wet only from the waist down when deputies arrived, which is provided as corroborating his claim that he tried to help Mont in the water. After his initial statement, Gibson was immediately allowed to leave with a family member. (It’s important to note that Hickory Creek does not have a shallow bank. The only way into the water is to jump all the way in. If the witness had genuinely tried to save Mont, they would have been wet head to toe.)
  • It wasn’t until November 27, 2018, more than a week after Mont’s death, that DCSO contacted the Texas Rangers to request assistance with the investigation. 
  • A Game Warden’s report filed with the state on November 28, 2018, states that Lavon Gibson claimed another party named Sanchez drove him and Mont to the bridge in a black car. (Not only does this conflict with the witness’ statements to DCSO deputies that he was dropped off by his aunt to meet Mont at the bridge, but DCSO officials and Texas Ranger Clair Barnes told Mont’s family that Mont left the courthouse in a white Chevy Impala. Recall that a “black car” stalked Mont during the weeks leading up to his death.)
  • None of the official reports mention James Miller, the first witness initially misidentified as “black” by Texas Ranger Clair Barnes during a meeting with the family on December 4, 2018. (Recall that this individual is actually a white teen and former neighbor of Mont’s family. The only witness ever mentioned by authorities who Mont’s family or any of his friends actually knew to be one of Mont’s “friends.”)
  • Though Texas Ranger Clair Barnes told Mont’s family he had concluded all of his interviews with witnesses by Dec. 5, 2018, his case report was not completed until June 2019. Though at least five different witnesses were identified by name to the family in two different face-to-face meetings, Ranger Barnes’ reports detail only three interviews, all of which were conducted with minor Black males. None of these interviews were conducted with parental consent, and all were conducted while the witnesses were detained in Ranger Barnes’ state-issued vehicle.
  • Ranger Barnes’ report states that all of the witnesses involved arrived at Goatman’s bridge in Curtis Cryer’s white Chevy Impala. According to Barnes’ notes regarding his interview with Cryer, at some point during their journey, the boys were “playing a game” that led to Mont being placed in the trunk of Cryer’s car. This led to Mont jumping out of the trunk, after which time, Cryer had to “chase him down.” No other details related to these disturbing details are made available in Barnes’ report, nor does he highlight them in his report as concerning. He made no attempt to follow up on this information.

All of the witnesses have disappeared. 

All three witnesses officially identified and interviewed by Texas Ranger Clair Barnes have all since dropped out of school or moved out of the area. They have completely disappeared from the map. An independent investigation revealed that all three of these young men had previous interactions with law enforcement, mostly for petty crimes. Considering the facts that every single one of these minors was interviewed by Ranger Barnes without an attorney or parental knowledge, and while inside of his squad vehicle, these witnesses were particularly vulnerable to coercion.

Next steps for the family?

As disturbing as all of the information described within this article is, we must emphasize the fact that there is so, so, much more which we simply cannot yet share, as the Lermont Stower-Jones’ family is still seeking justice for the murder of their son, as well as the failed investigation that followed.

What does Mont’s family want from the Denton community and their North Texas neighbors? 

They want help defying those who murdered their son, as well as those who helped cover up what happened to him. 

They want you to say his name, “Lermont Stowers-Jones.” 

They want you to keep telling his story

They need you to donate to their legal and investigative fund, here

There is a $5,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of persons involved with Mont’s murder. If you or someone you know has any information at all, email it to justiceformont@gmail.com

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