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Hanging Death of 20-Year-Old New Jersey Black Man Ruled a Suicide, No Evidence of a Struggle Found

The death of a Black man found hanging from a tree in a park in Morris Township, New Jersey, has been ruled a suicide by the prosecutor investigating the incident. The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office released the findings in the death of 20-year-old Amanuel “Amani” Kildea nearly three months after Kildea’s body was discovered.

Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp says Kildea bought the rope used in the June 28 hanging from a home improvement retailer earlier that day after conducting “multiple internet searches related to suicide,” that same day, according to Knapp.

Amani Kildea
On Sept. 30, New Jersey officials found the hanging death of 20-year-old Amani Kildea to be a suicide. Photo: Davis & Hepplewhite Funeral Home

“The investigation did not reveal any evidence of criminality, nor is there any evidence of a connection between Mr. Kildea’s suicide and any other person or group,” Knapp said in a statement. Kildea had been involved with PedoGotCaught, a group that exposes alleged child-sex predators by pursuing people who were attempting to meet up with minors for sex by posing as minors to connect with the alleged predators online and then expose them on social media.

Of Kildea’s death, Knapp added that there were no signs of a struggle at the scene, and the medical examiner also did not unearth any evidence of trauma consistent with a struggle.

The investigation, according to Knapp, included his office’s Major Crimes Unit, Morris County Park Police and the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit.

On Sept. 30, Knapp, and Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Acting Chief of Investigations Christoph Kimker, along with Morris County Park Police Chief Gabe DiPietro announced the results of the investigation into Kildea’s death.

Knapp said though he rarely discusses the details of suicides, he made an exception in this case “to provide as much transparency as possible” because of the “great deal of inquiry” regarding the case. Black Lives Matter Morristown had demanded the state take control of the investigation, after criticizing Knapp for what the group found to be a rush to label the death a suicide. That’s after Knapp released the county medical examiner’s conclusion of suicide days after the Long Valley resident’s body was recovered.

“The Black community has a traumatic history of public hangings of Black men, women and children, and this summer around the time that Amani Kildea was found, we experienced nationwide news of several deaths by hanging of Black bodies,” said Black Lives Matter Morristown founder T’Anna Kimbrough. “We needed to understand the circumstances surrounding his death and we demanded transparency,” she added.

Some activists had wondered why Kildea, who seemed to have a bright future ahead, would kill himself. Kildea, who was adopted from Ethiopia at age 5 by a white family, reportedly had expressed dreams of working for the FBI or CIA. Not long before his death, he’d graduated from high school, where he played football and basketball. Kildea also had completed Army Reserve basic training in February 2020 and was set to become a military policeman. He was planning to attend James Madison University in the fall.

Around the time period of Kildea’s death, instances of other Black men found in hanging deaths were being reported across the country, stoking a fear that these men were being lynched in response to the racial upheaval in the nation following the death of George Floyd of Minneapolis.

Kimbrough, who sent her condolences to Kildea’s “birth family in Ethiopia and to the Kildea family,” said by putting pressure on the prosecutor’s office, the office was forced to make the investigation into Kildea’s death a priority.

“We are thankful that the Morris County Prosecutor’s office was finally transparent with the conclusion of the investigation and a thorough investigation was completed,” said Kimbrough.

As part of his findings, the prosecutor, shared these details about Kildea’s death:

Law enforcement received a 9-1-1 call at 2:47 pm from a park visitor who had noticed the body of Kildea hanging from a tree just off a hiking trail.

First responders located Kildea in a near-seated position at the base of a tree, with a rope wrapped around his neck.

Kildea’s wallet and cell phone were in his pocket and a laptop and backpack were neatly positioned near him. His car was in a nearby parking lot.

Kildea’s obituary, which says Kildea “took his own life,” has a statement from his parents, Rev. Tom Kildea and his wife, Janice, who said, “Although life with Amani was often challenging at home, we loved him dearly. His departure from us and from this world is an unspeakable tragedy for us all.”

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