ST. LOUIS COUNTY • Claims that the son of a Ferguson protester was murdered by lynching in his backyard in north St. Louis County have gone around the world on social media, but police said Wednesday they think the death was a suicide.
Melissa McKinnies’ family found Danye Jones, 24, early in the morning on Oct. 17. He was hanging by a bed sheet tied around his neck from a tree in her backyard on the 11400 block of Criterion Avenue.
“They lynched my baby,” she wrote, in a Facebook post that has been removed.
In an interview Wednesday, McKinnies said she knew her son did not kill himself. She said he was targeted and murdered in retaliation for her activism.
She insisted he was upbeat, not suicidal, and did not know how to tie the types of knots used in the ligature. The sheet used did not match the family’s sheets. And he had packed an overnight bag, which had been left on the patio, a suggestion that he trusted and had planned to leave the house with the person who killed him, she said.
McKinnies, her husband, a sister and brother, said they did not know how the hanging occurred. They said that was for police to figure out.
Stories characterizing the death as a lynching have gone viral on social media; several well-known publications have reported it as fact. Some have tried to connect the case to a often-shared theory that someone was systematically taking out young Ferguson protesters.
A rally to support the family has been scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday in downtown Clayton.
St. Louis County Police said they thought Jones’ death was a suicide.
Spokesman Shawn McGuire said the body was on the ground when police arrived. There were no signs of struggle or trauma to the body. And, he said, the family reported a suicide when they called 911. A determination of the cause of death had not yet been made, pending results from toxicology tests.
McKinnies, who helped organize mass protests in the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown in 2014, said that people had made threats to her at protests and that she believed someone wanted to kill her son.