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Monday, February 09, 2009

Aquan Lewis' mom seeks info

February 6, 2009
Staff Reporter mihejirika@suntimes.com

The ringing of the first bell at all Evanston public schools this morning will trigger a moment of silence in memory of 10-year-old Aquan Lewis.

That silence is welcomed, but not the one his distraught mother says she is getting from Evanston police and school officials about how her son died.

"My son has never tried to hurt himself, no way, in any fashion," Angel Marshall, 26, said Thursday at a news conference at her lawyer's office, adding she doesn't believe the medical examiner's ruling that her son's death was a suicide.

The fifth-grader was found hanged in a bathroom stall at Oakton Elementary on Tuesday. Following his death early Wednesday, the state's child welfare agency initiated a neglect investigation against the school. Sources said Aquan had told a teacher that day he planned to kill himself, but the threat was not taken seriously.

Citing a pending investigation, Evanston police and Evanston/Skokie School District 65 have offered little information about circumstances surrounding the death, even to his mother, her lawyer complained.

"We don't have a complete investigation to share information with her," district spokeswoman Patricia Markham said Thursday.

But meanwhile, the mother is subjected to all sorts of speculation, said lawyer Todd Smith, who is seeking an independent autopsy.

"You don't send your son off to fifth grade one morning, get a call in the afternoon that he's found hanging and brain dead, and subsequently dies, and accept 'We can't tell you anything,' " Smith said.

Evanston Police Cmdr. Tom Guenther would only say that the investigation had expanded with additional officers interviewing more Oakton students and staff.

"He left home so happy that morning . . ." Marshall said. "I just do not see him going to school to harm himself.

"My son told me, 'Mom, I'm going to be in the NBA, and I'm going to take care of you and my sister and brother, just like Grandma took care of us," she said, before breaking down.

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