DA says girl broke up with Raynard Johnson the night of hanging

KOKOMO, Miss. - A black teen who died by hanging last month was told by a girlfriend that night that she was in love with someone else, the young woman told police.

District Attorney Buddy McDonald confirmed reports that the statement from 17-year-old Taccara Matthews was shared with Raynard Johnson's family, along with an autopsy report and other documents.

Johnson, 17, was found hanging from a pecan tree just yards from the front door of his family's rural Marion County home June 16. Two autopsies - one commissioned by the family - concluded the injuries were consistent with suicide.

McDonald said Friday that his own investigation is incomplete, and that ''there are one or two things still being looked at.''

The honor student's family maintains he would not have taken his own life. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who believes the teen's death was a lynching, lobbied for a federal investigation since local and state authorities ruled the death a suicide.

Jackson and the Johnson family met with Attorney General Janet Reno in Washington Wednesday. Reno said she assured the group that the FBI would follow every lead in the case, and Jackson said he was satisfied with those assurances.

Jackson dismissed the Matthews' statement, as a ''small piece of the case,'' and questioned the girl's credibility. Jackson said he believes the hanging was provoked by the Johnson brothers' relationships with two young white women.

McDonald confirmed Matthews, who is black, gave a statement to investigators that she broke up with Johnson at his home only two hours before his death.

''I told him I love him, but I loved someone else,'' the girl said in the statement confirmed by prosecutors, ''and he sat there just looking at me. And he asked me if I was ready to go home, and I said, 'Yeah.'''

Roger Johnson told The Clarion-Ledger newspaper of Jackson that Raynard Johnson and Matthews had been together shortly before his brother's death.

''He took her back home. After he dropped her off, he came back here,'' Roger Johnson told the newspaper. ''Then she called back and said, 'Did Raynard make it back all right?'''

Efforts to contact Matthews by telephone, both through her family and through the district attorney's office, were unsuccessful. MacDonald said he had no information about Matthews' whereabouts and someone at Matthews' home who refused to identify herself also declined to reveal the girl's whereabouts.


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