The death of a Muslim teenager whose body was found hanging from a tree in a wooded area has drawn the attention of federal authorities.
The death of Ben Keita – a high school student with a promising future – was initially ruled a suicide, but now authorities are reconsidering that finding.
According to KIRO 7, Keita, 18, was found hanging from the tree in Lake Stevens, Washington.
According to CBS News, the FBI released a statement on March 3 that said “it concurs with the conclusions of local police that ‘evidence collected to date does not provide any indication of a criminal act,’ but that it would reevaluate its position if new evidence develops.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Medical Examiner Changed the Cause of Death After Oddities Were Noted in the Case
KIRO 7 reported that the medical examiner initially ruled the death a suicide but changed the manner to undetermined because of a series of anomalies in the case.
For one, the television station reported, the rope was tied 50 feet up the tree, which is unusual for a hanging, and K-9s dispatched to the scene did not initially find Keita’s body, KIRO 7 reported.
According to CNN, “The autopsy report says his body may have been semi-frozen for weeks, consistent with winter, and could have been there the entire time he’d been missing. But his feet were about 2.5 feet off the ground — no need to look up — and the area supposedly was previously searched, the report says.”
CNN reported the rope was “tied to a tree branch at least 30 feet high.”
2. Keita’s Family Says Keita Was a ‘Happy’ Person Without Suicidal Tendencies
Keita was not depressed or acting suicidal before his death, his father told Fox News.
“Ben was a happy, young man,” Ben’s father, Ibrahima Keita, told q13. “We believe that somewhere, someone must know something about this case and we urge people to come forward and contact the police.”
He was initially reported missing. The missing poster for Keita says he was last seen at his mother’s home in Lake Stevens around 1 a.m. on November 26. CNN reported Keita’s body was found “by a passerby January 9, dangling from a long rope tied to a high branch.”
However, Lake Stevens Police said “Keita had not gone to work the day before his disappearance and had not gone to school for about three weeks prior,” according to CBS News.
3. An Islamic Organization Wants Federal Authorities to Investigate
According to Fox News, the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations “is calling for the FBI to investigate the death.”
“We just want to make sure that the expertise, the experience and the human resources of the FBI are brought to make sure everything is comprehensively investigated, no stone is left unturned,” Washington CAIR executive director Arsalan Bukhari told KIRO.
A January autopsy report says, according to CNN: “Although at autopsy I did not see any evidence of trauma beyond the evidence of hanging, the circumstances of the very high tree branch, uncertain location of the decedent for the six weeks prior to discovery (with a report that the area where the body was found had been previously searched), and lack of any reported suicidal ideation or attempts makes a definitive classification of the manner as suicide uncertain.”
4. Ben, who Was in High School, Wanted to Be a Doctor
Keita’s father said in a news conference that his son “was planning to graduate this year from Lake Stevens High School.” CNN reported that Keita wanted to be a medical examiner as a career.
Ibrahim Keita also said, according to The Huffington Post, “He was already in the Running Start program at Everett Community College and he was dreaming of becoming a medical doctor and work as a medical examiner. Now those dreams are over.”
5. Police Consider the Case Open Until They Receive Crime Lab Reports
Lake Stevens police said in a statement, according to The New York Daily News, “that the case remains open as they await results from the state crime lab after reports surfaced that they were going to close the case.”
The Daily News reported that the FBI’s Seattle office says it is “communicating with our police partners.”