The family of a teen whose naked body was discovered in Livingston, Montana, in a field off Highway 89 at the beginning of February says law enforcement is not working hard to uncover the truth about their loved one’s death because he is Black.
Jalen Williams, a native of Evanston, Illinois, was found dead on Feb. 10 near his girlfriend’s house.
Authorities say he froze to death. However, the 19-year-old’s family suspects foul play.
“[Detectives] told me Jalen died of hypothermia,” Lilonda Brooks, the teen’s mother said to Chicago station NBC 5 last week. “He was frostbitten.”
The family wants to know “how?” They believed the man knew his surroundings very well. They also think someone did something to him before his tragic demise.
Terrance Brooks, Williams’ uncle said, “He was found face down with no clothes on – in an open field.”
The mother also said it looked like her son’s body showed signs of trauma.
“It looked like he put up a fight – bruises – like he was swollen,” she said. “Something happened to my son, and not of his own actions.”
According to the family, the young man moved to Montana for work purposes after landing a job working on a ranch with Heroes and Horses, a program that works with veterans, offering them an alternative to work through their post-traumatic stress disorder and scars from combat.
The family alleges the Livingston Police Department is not being helpful to them as they search for clues surrounding Williams’ premature death.
The uncle explained to the press that his nephew moved to the state after graduating from Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois, in 2020 and went back and forth to Chicago to spend time with his family. Lilonda Brooks says her son was thinking about starting a business in the town and was excited about his future, saying, “He had reached that point to take off.”
Terrance Brooks believes that race may play a part in the city’s lack of enthusiasm for finding out what happened to his sister’s son.
Livingston is a small town with a population of 8,386. The racial makeup of the town is almost 96 percent white and .5 percent Black, according to the U.S. Census.
“The detectives that was handling his case has avoided talking to us face to face knowing we from out of town and needing answers,” Brooks wrote. “They trying to write him off due to the fact he’s a young BLACK man that’s from out of town.”
The uncle said he and Smith’s mother receive a “nonchalant” response from authorities when they went to Montana to look into the case.
Police Assistant Chief Wayne Hard of the Livingston Police Department disagrees and says the investigation is ongoing.
According to KBZK, the Park County Coroner Al Jenkins the autopsy report revealed there was no foul play. The family, who also reached out to the FBI regarding his death, are awaiting the results of two autopsies, one completed in Billings, Montana, and another performed in Chicago.
Williams was related to Lorenzo Brown, a football player at the University of Montana, NBC Montana reports.
The student-athlete said his cousin was a football player also, but people always said he was too small to play “running back.” Williams had been diagnosed with a heart condition, but he took that challenge and defied it, Brown said.
“He ended up being a star in the Loyola football team,” Brown recalled. “He ended up overcoming everything. It just sucks that he couldn’t achieve his true goal to be in the navy and go out and protect his country.”
Brown also remembers his cousin as being “very smart” and had a goal of going to Alaska to do offshore fishing.
On Thursday, Feb. 23, a protest was held in Williams’ honor in Chicago. People released black and blue balloons in memorial to the young man. The viewing for homegoing was the next day, Feb. 24, and the family hosted the wake on Saturday.