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Denton family still seeking closure nearly four years after teen's death

Old Alton Bridge in Denton
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Lermont Stowers-Jones' family is calling for a new investigation into his death.

Lermont Stowers-Jones, a Denton High School senior, was found dead near a historic North Texas bridge in 2018.

Lermon Jones remembers his 17-year-old son Lermont Stowers-Jones, who also went by Mont, as a great kid.

Jones said Mont "did real good in life" and was an organist for his church.

A tragic turn of events led to Mont’s death in 2018.

Mont, who was Black, was found dead in Hickory Creek, near the Old Alton Bridge outside of Denton. The last time Mont’s family saw him alive was a few days before Thanksgiving that year.

Jones had dropped off his son at the Denton County Courts Building. He says he told Mont to call him once he got done, but Jones never got that call.

The next day, Jones says he was coming home from his daughter’s basketball game when he got a call from the Denton Police Department.

Lermont Stowers-Jones, whose body was found near the Old Alton Bridge in Denton, poses for a picture in a black shirt.
Courtesy
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Stowers-Jones family
Lermont Stowers-Jones' body was found near the Old Alton Bridge in Denton in 2018.

“They asked me, ‘Do you have a son named Lermont?’" Jones said. "And I said, ‘Yes.’ And they said, ‘Well, you need to come identify his body at the Old Alton Bridge.’”

The Old Alton Bridge, where Mont’s body was found, has a divisive past.

It’s commonly known as “Goatman’s Bridge.” According to local legend, it was the site of the brutal lynching of a man named Oscar Washburn, a Black goat herder, in the early 20th century.

While there are no official records of Washburn existing, the bridge has a reputation for having a problematic past that includes racial violence.

Lifelong Denton resident Zarian Boone went to school with Mont. She says the bridge is rumored to be the site of racist murders and Satanic rituals.

“I've heard like back in way, way back in the day, the KKK used to like hang people off of it...” Boone said.

Jessica Luther Rummel is a teaching fellow at the nearby University of North Texas who advocates for the Jones family.

“It is very clear that it is a place that has become a beacon for white supremacy, and white supremacist legends, these kinds of stories and myths that uphold these types of ideals,” Luther Rummel said.

Lermon Jones says the location wasn’t the only strange thing about Mont’s death. He’s frustrated with the response of law enforcement agencies.

Jones says about 20 minutes after he got that first phone call about identifying Mont’s body, he got another call from a Texas game warden, who said Mont’s body wasn't at the bridge.

Jones says for several hours, his family scrambled to find Mont while police continued to search for his body.

Eventually, they found Mont’s body near the bridge, and Jones couldn’t believe it.

“Wait a minute, y'all just say y’all been searching for 16 hours with drones and divers and you said ‘His body was not in there. There’s no way his body is in there,’ and 16 hours later you say his body's here," Jones said. "Something's not right with that picture.”

KERA reached out to the Denton County Sheriff's Office, who said the case was investigated by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

According to DPS records, the official cause of Mont’s death was accidental drowning, but Jones suspects foul play, and some details of the investigation don’t sit right with him.

Jessica Luther Rummel with UNT says there are conflicting reports of who was at the scene, how Mont got to the bridge and how he died.

“We have this family whose child is dead, and they still years later do not have full transparency and answers as to why,” Luther Rummel said.

No one has been charged in connection with Mont’s death. Jones says he wants the case to be reopened.

“When can my son have justice?" Jones said. "When can he get justice? He's no longer here, but he needs justice.”

Got a tip? Email Pablo Arauz Peña at parauzpena@kera.org

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Pablo Arauz Peña is the breaking news reporter for KERA News.