Speaking publicly for the first time, the white older girlfriend of Lennon Lacy said she believes the 17-year-old was killed by racists in their small North Carolina town who were upset about their interracial relationship and lynched the teen on a swing set as retribution.
Michelle Brimhall, 32 with three young children, told the Daily Mail she decided to speak up to support the version of events described by Lennon’s family, who have kept his case alive since his August death. Brimhall said she didn’t at all believe the police story that Lennon committed suicide.
“I believe Lennon was murdered,” she said, as she revealed details of their relationship for the first time. “The police ruled his death as suicide but Lennon would never harm himself. He’s got too much love for life.”
After Lennon’s family and the local NAACP loudly called for the investigation to be reopened, even visiting the area’s US attorney, the FBI announced that it was conducting its own investigation. There is an abundance of facts that appear to make it unlikely that Lennon took his own life.
As the nation shows widespread outrage at the killing of Black men, Lennon’s death still evokes a tableau from an earlier era, when a Black man could be hanged for even talking to a white woman. In fact, Brimhall confirmed that the Ku Klux Klan was still a presence in the small town of 1,800—know as “Crackertown” by many Blacks, who are outnumbered in the population, 80 percent to 18 percent.
“The Ku Klux Klan held marches in the town,” said Brimhall, who fled Bladenboro after Lennon’s death and moved back to Illinois. “They [the Ku Klux Klan] have a building [meeting house] in Bladenboro, a white building with boarded-up windows. And I’m told they still have meetings there.”
Out of fear, Brimhall said they tried to keep their relationship secret, but they weren’t successful—she was subjected to racist remarks by some white people in town, and two of her neighbors put up a sign around their trailer saying “n*ggers Keep Out” and flew a Confederate flag.
“Neighbors had told me they were against interracial relationships and it was ‘not right’ me being with a Black guy,” she said. “We tried to keep it [our relationship] a secret. We would walk to the store together but we never held hands or kissed or any of that stuff out in public.”
She said she was introduced to the teen by a mutual friend after she left her husband in Illinois and moved to Bladenboro with her three children. Despite the 14-year age difference, she said they hit it off. They lived just across the road from each other in a public housing complex.
“I found everything about Lennon attractive,” Brimhall told the Daily Mail. “He was tall and strong and he acted much older than what he was. He had a very good soul.”
“We talked about everything. He talked about school, his mom and dad, my kids, everything going on in life. We was together every day until I started college and he went back to school,” she said. “I wanted Lennon to fulfill his dreams. Go into the NFL and play for the Washington Redskins. We had made plans to move to Charlotte after he finished high school where he could go to school until he could get into the NFL.”
But she did acknowledge tensions with Lennon’s family, who didn’t approve of the relationship and confronted her about it twice, according to the Daily Mail.
“We told his mom and dad that we had stopped seeing each other because they were getting on at him because of the age difference,” she said. “Miss Claudia [Lennon’s mother] didn’t want to see her son hurt. But I always tried to help him and push him forward.”
She said she didn’t see as much of him after he went back to high school and she started classes at a local college, but she did see him the night he was killed.
“It was a Thursday night. We did not see each other or talk to each other that day but I saw Lennon sitting on his front porch. A friend came over and when he left at about 12.30 am Lennon was not sitting on his porch no more.”
Once he was found hanging from a swing set nearby, Brimhall said, “I felt dead inside, like I wasn’t there anymore. I turned around and started walking and I couldn’t breathe.
“Lennon wouldn’t hurt nobody. He didn’t do drugs; he didn’t mess around with any gangs. He went to school and played football. That was all he did.”
These are some of the facts that put Lennon’s suicide in doubt:
—Lennon was last seen wearing a pair of $130 Nike Air Jordans, but when his body was found he was wearing a pair of old white running shoes that were one and a half sizes too small.
—There was no note, no history of suicide attempts and no depression.
—He was due to start the football season the next day for the West Bladen Knights, as a starting linebacker. He had been eagerly looking forward to the game for months.
—Larry Junior, Lennon’s brother, said they tried re-enact the suicide and it would have been physically impossible.
—The independent pathologist commissioned by the NAACP agreed and said the cross beam the noose was attached to was too high for the teenager to reach on his own.
—There was no item at the scene that he could have stood on and then kicked away.
—”The boy that found Lennon told me he had bruises on his face and it looked like his nose was broke [sic],” Brimhall told the Daily Mail.
“My brother was in the last class of school segregation in 1968,” Wilson Lacy, Lennon’s mother’s cousin, told the Daily Mail. “The area where Lennon was found, we [black people] were not allowed to walk through there. They would be harassed and made to know they were not welcome.”
“The police did not do due diligence. Maybe they were short staffed but we have an expression here—the dinosaurs, that is the Ku Klux Klan, may be dead but they have laid their eggs.”