The Dallas County District Attorney’s office has reopened a 2014 case that involved the death of one former high school basketball star at the alleged hands of another, according to an ESPN Outside the Lines report.
In 2014, James Madison High standout Johnathan Turner and Wilmer-Hutchins High star Troy Causey were both living in the garage of a Dallas area home owned by then Wilmer-Hutchins head basketball coach John Burley’s girlfriend Jeanee Miles, whose son Willie Hollins was a distant cousin of Causey.
If that sounds complicated, it’s because it is, and it led to recruiting violations that cost 15 school employees their jobs, but that’s beside the point. The focus here is March 23, 2014, when an argument over a video game between Turner and Causey spilled into the driveway of the home. Turner’s right fist struck Causey’s jaw, and the latter fell to the pavement, cracking his skull. A day later, Causey was pronounced brain-dead.
According to Outside the Lines, Dallas homicide detective Esteban Montenegro has since suspected Turner — and possibly Hollins — of kicking or striking Causey in the head after he fell to the ground. His suspicions stemmed from blood spattered on the ground five feet from where Causey landed and medical examiner Elizabeth Ventura’s final report — altered from its original version — indicating a depression on the left side of Causey’s skull had to have come from a blow to the head separate from his “sickening” fall.
“In an audio recording of their conversation, Ventura told Montenegro and another detective that there wasn’t much damage on the outside — no abrasions on the scalp — but massive damage to the inside of the skull,” Outside the Lines reported. “She showed them fresh pictures from the autopsy. It looked to her like Causey landed on the right side of his skull, where there was another small fracture, but that couldn’t explain the significant damage on the left side.”
In the moments and days after Causey’s death, neighbor Charlene West allegedly concocted a story that an unidentified group of boys jumped Causey, Miles told the boy’s mother Tammy Simpson that neither Turner nor Hollins were present during the altercation, and the two teens joined Simpson at Causey’s bedside, vowing to find whoever ultimately killed their friend, according to the Outside the Lines report.
Ultimately, according to OTL, Turner came forward, admitting to punching Causey but denying anybody kicked or struck him on the ground, and Hollins corroborated that account to investigators. Likewise, fellow friend Richard Williams and neighbor Frederick Weaver, who both witnessed the altercation, denied any contact with Causey beyond Turner’s punch. However, another Madison basketball player, Cameron Bryant, who was overheard at school relay Turner’s account of a kick, told police after repeated questioning from Montenegro that he suspected both Turner and Hollins of kicking Causey while he was on the ground.
It was the blood spatter, adjusted medical examiner’s report and Bryant’s statement that led Dallas police to charge Turner with first-degree murder, OTL reported. But a Texas Ranger’s belief that the blood spatter could have come from moving the body, coupled with Bryant’s disappearance and refusal to testify, led prosecutors to reach a plea deal with Turner on a seven-year suspended sentence for manslaughter in 2015.
More recently, though, Outside the Lines presented four medical examiners with Causey’s “doctor’s report, CT scans, the radiology report and initial autopsy” in addition to photographs of the damage to his skull, and none of them could definitely find evidence of a kick to the head. Likewise, OTL tracked down Bryant, who recanted his account to police stating that Turner and/or Hollins kicked Causey while he was down.
“There is one injury; he fell and hit his head,” Rhode Island’s former longtime chief medical examiner Elizabeth Laposata, a pathology professor in the medical schools at both Brown and Boston University, told Outside the Lines. “There is no other possibility.”
And while a second medical examiner from the Dallas area, Nizam Peerwani, confirmed Ventura’s final report — that an additional blow to the head had occurred — during an earlier reexamination of the case by the DA’s office, investigators have again reopened the case in the wake of Bryant’s recanted account. So, as a result of the Outside the Lines report, the manslaughter charge against Turner — now a sophomore on the Ranger College basketball team — could be dropped a year into his seven-year suspended sentence.