GILES COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Giles County family is hoping for justice after their request for a death certificate opens an investigation into how three young black men died, more than 30 years ago.
“The system failed us, they failed us point-blank. They really did and I’m upset, I’m mad and I want justice for my brother, that’s all I want is justice,” Dennis Martindale’s sister Tammy said.
Dennis’s family clearly remembers July 11th, 1991. “I can remember it just like it was right now,” his brother Timothy said.
Dennis was 20 years old when he and his 2 friends; 15-year-old “Stevie” Russell Bass and 16-year-old Patrick Fletcher went missing. Their car was found parked at the bridge on Prospect Elkton Highway. The three bodies were later pulled from Richland Creek, fully clothed.
“I will never believe my brother got in the water that day with his tennis shoes on, his clothes on, jewelry on, come on now,” Tammy shook her head.
The deaths of the three young men were ruled accidental drownings by former Medical Examiner Charles Harlan. Harlan, who is now deceased, later lost his medical license due to malpractice, including botched autopsies.
“If you look at these autopsies they weren’t as complete as they should have been,” District Attorney General Brent Cooper said.
“That man covered up a lot of stuff, I pity his soul. He was an evil man, I pity him,” said Tammy.
The Martindales believe the cover-up into the deaths may have been racially driven.
“Giles County is a racial town and 31 years ago a black person didn’t stand a chance, but I’m not scared. I’m standing up and fighting for my brother and I truly believe to this day all of this was in God’s plan, God’s plan,” said Tammy.
In the last week, investigators have uncovered even more peculiar details into the tragic deaths of the three young men, according to General Cooper who hopes to give the families peace.
“We are just hoping one way or another we can give the family some peace, either let them know for sure we believe this was just a crazy accident or that it wasn’t and if that’s the case whoever is responsible, we can hold them accountable,” said Cooper.
He added that they may have the three bodies exhumed and new autopsies performed.