Father still seeking answers after son found dead in December - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock


Father still seeking answers after son found dead in December


By Katie Bauer - bio | email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Four months after a 5-year-old boy died, and an autopsy report is released, the child's father is still asking why.  

Jacob Longenecker says it's impossible for him not to think about his son, Justin everyday, and the life the 5-year-old could have had. Perhaps what's worse is the fact that days, weeks and now months have gone by and still no closure.

Justin was vibrant 5-year-old boy, full of life. "He always had a big smile on his face," said his father Jacob Longenecker.

But on December 23rd, 2009, Justin Longenecker took his last breath. His father Jacob, of Houston, says four months later he still doesn't know what exactly happened. "A 5-year-old baby boy with no prior health condition or anything like that does not go to sleep and then never wake up again," said Longenecker.

Longenecker has full custody of his two sons, 7-year-old Jacob, Jr. and 5-year-old Justin, but back in November of 2008, Longenecker was deployed to Iraq and his kids came to live with his ex-wife, their mother, in Lubbock. "I knew I signed up for the military that was going to happen and that was nothing I could control," said Longenecker.

Longenecker says he was back home in Houston in November of 2009, but that the kids were going to stay with their mother through Christmas. He says he couldn't wait to see them. "There was a lot of things I was wanting to do with them, we had stuff planned," said Longenecker.

But Longenecker never saw Justin alive again. According to the police report, he was found not breathing after falling asleep on the living room couch, he was later pronounced dead at University Medical Center. At the time the two boys were at home with a babysitter.

"We're automatically going to look at that as a suspicious death. Detectives were called out to the scene and began investigating it from that perspective," said Captain Greg Stevens with the Lubbock Police Department.

CPS also launched an investigation, because of past case files in Lubbock. "We got a preliminary indication that there were no signs of abuse or neglect of course if there were something else to come out later based upon further autopsy results we would take a look and reopen the case," said Greg Cunningham with CPS.

But fast forward, four months, and still no official cause of death. "All we want is just the answer as to what really happened that day for him to pass away," said Longenecker.

"I don't think four months would be unusual. Particularly if you look at the report and you see the number of things that has to be looked at, and we did that," said Natarajan.

On Thursday, during our interview, Dr. Sridhar Natarajan released a cause and manner of death, and at this time both are listed as 'undetermined' which is what will be printed on Justin's death certificate.

"I would just like to say that when we use the term undetermined that doesn't mean we don't know what's going on. There are a number of things that have been excluded but there are still some gaps that cannot be quite answered at this point," said Natarajan.

Natarajan adds child deaths can be very complicated. "I don't know if it's going to make the family feel like there's anything resolved but we can look at a lot of things that we can exclude as a reason, and that takes time," said Natarajan.

But Longenecker says he is still left without peace of mind. "It feels like they didn't do a 110% on trying to find a cause of death," he said.

All this dad can do now, is remember the short life that brought him a lifetime of memories. "I'm going to miss that smile, I'm going to miss him running around causing ruckus, I'm going to miss everything," said Longenecker.

Stevens tells us if new clues are found in the death of Justin, the case could be looked at again.

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