Mount Carmel teen’s death prompts criminal investigation

Jeff Bobo • May 22, 2013 at 11:26 AM

MOUNT CARMEL — Police don’t suspect foul play in the death of an 18-year-old Mount Carmel man at his home last week, but a criminal investigation is under way due to the presence of alcohol and drug paraphernalia in his home.

On the afternoon of Thursday, May 16, Jonathan Austin Forester was discovered deceased at 1115 Hammond Ave., where he lived alone in a house owned by his mother.

Forester’s body was sent for an autopsy at the Quillen College of Medicine, but MCPD Chief Mike Campbell said neither a cause of death nor a toxicology report was available as of Tuesday.

Although some drug paraphernalia was reportedly found in the residence, Campbell told the Times-News Tuesday there were no drugs present when officers arrived at the scene.

Campbell added, however, that numerous witnesses have been interviewed related to the investigation, and one witness stated that Forester had access to bath salts.

“There was lots of alcohol in the house, numerous vodka bottles and lots of beer,” Campbell said. “He’s underage, and somebody had to be supplying him with the alcohol and whatever else is in his system.”

Aside from the alcohol, officers reportedly found a pipe with marijuana residue, rolling papers, and a cut straw and rolled-up dollar bill presumably used for snorting drugs. The cut straw and rolled-up dollar bill are being tested to determine what, if any, residue is present.

“We found no evidence of pills or pill abuse, but it’s obvious that cut straw and rolled-up dollar were used for some type of snorting,” Campbell said. “We’re not saying there was any foul play, but there’s a possibility of wrongdoing on somebody’s part. The presence of alcohol alone is bad enough, but now we have information that bath salts may be involved.”

On May 16 at 1:41 p.m., MCPD Officer George Copas was dispatched to 115 Hammond Ave. on a report of a male not breathing

Ronald Burk, 43, of Mount Carmel told Copas he’d come to Forester’s residence on two occasions that day to pick him up for work and was not able to wake him by knocking on the door. Burk and Forester had been working together recently cutting trees and limbs.

Burk reportedly found the back door of the residence unlocked, and upon entering, reportedly found Forester on the floor of the living room not breathing.

“I entered the residence and observed EMS checking the vitals of a white male setting on the floor with his legs crossed and his arms and head resting on his right knee,” Copas stated in his report. “The residence was cluttered with several empty containers — beer cans and liquor bottles — and what appeared to be drug paraphernalia in close proximity to the body.”

Copas added, “The body and the scene was examined by Hawkins County Coroner Stanley Arnold and there was no physical signs of trauma to the body.”

Campbell said there is no reason to believe there was a party at Forester’s residence prior to his death.

“As far as we can tell there was no one at the home other than the deceased,” Campbell said. “In talking to family members, the family had been together the night before. The night before he was found they had gone out to eat. A number of family members had gone out to eat in Kingsport and that was the last time they saw him alive. Apparently, he went home alone and was found the next day.”

Forester was a 2012 graduate of Volunteer High School and would have turned 19 next month.

Campbell asks anyone who may have information about the events leading up to Forester’s death to contact the MCPD at (423) 357-7311 and leave a callback number.

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