Rumors surrounding the death of 21-year-old Taemon Blair, the North Carolina man found hanged in his semi-tractor trailer last month, have taken on a life of their own, and now the Allen County Coroner’s Office in Indiana is taking the surprising step of publicly refuting untruths about the young man’s death still swirling on social media.
The coroner’s office and police in Allen County ruled Blair’s death a suicide, but his family insists he was murdered and have been steadfast in calling on police to conduct a longer, more thorough investigation into the strange circumstances surrounding his death.
“We just want him to get justice. That’s all we want,” Blair’s older brother, Dee Smith, told Charlotte’s FOX 46 in March. “We just want to find out exactly if somebody did it, who did it, and why, and we want to open it back up to see.”
Blair, a Charlotte native, was discovered dead on March 14 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, inside the trailer of the 18-wheeler he’d been driving. A report from the Allen County Coroner’s Office said an autopsy determined that Blair had died from asphyxiation by hanging and ruled his death a suicide.
In recent weeks, however, several prominent celebrities, including rappers Big Boi and T.I., have fueled viral social media speculation that Blair was the victim of a heinous, racially-motivated attack, according to Snopes. Some claimed the young man was found with his hands bound while others claimed Blair had lacerations to his neck that were much more severe than the ligature wounds typically found on hanging victims.
The Office of the Allen County Coroner effectively shut down theses rumors in a statement March 28, and reaffirmed its initial ruling that Blair’s death was the result of “Asphyxia due to Hanging, and the Manner of death is Suicide.”
“Due to the inaccurate information being spread across social media, additional factual information, determined during the course [of] the investigation will be provided to the media for release to the general public,” the agency wrote.
The four-page statement laid out the known details surrounding Blair’s tragic death.
According to the report, GPS data taken from the unit in Blair’s semitrailer showed he left Falls Creek, Pennsylvania, at 12:19 p.m. on March 13 and passed through Ohio before reaching his intended destination of Fort Wayne at about 6:57 p.m. later that day. Blair’s big rig arrived at a business in the 9100 block of Bluffton Road in Fort Wayne just before 7:30 p.m.
Around 11:40 a.m. the next day, emergency responders were dispatched to the area where Blair had parked his truck after receiving a 911 call from an employee who’d discovered the young man’s lifeless body in the sleeper compartment of the truck. The employee told the police he/she spotted Blair’s truck in the driveway of the business at 6:50 a.m and tried to make contact with the driver by banging on the door at 7:45 a.m.
There was no response, however.
The employee tried again around 11:35 a.m., this time opening the door of the truck and making noise in hopes of rousing the driver awake. Upon getting no response, the worker drew back the curtain between he truck’s cab and sleeper compartment and found Blair’s body. The employee checked for a pulse, and, not finding one, rushed back inside the business to dial 911.
Emergency officials arrived on the scene shortly afterward and pronounced Blair dead at 11:44 a.m.
According to the coroner’s office, “the scene was photographed and additional interviews were conducted. Upon completion of the photo documentation the ligature was released and the body was lowered to a supine position in the sleeper compartment.”
A physical exam by a deputy coroner didn’t reveal any marks or injuries on Blair’s hands, wrist or face, nor was any suspected blood or active bleeding was noted or reported. The report also noted that “ligature marks around [Blair’s] neck were of consistent size and shape of the ligature used” and that there were no signs of a struggle or fight inside the driver’s compartment or sleeper compartment of the truck.
The statement went on to address specific rumors made about the case, including claims attributed to a unnamed Indiana police detective by Blair’s own mother. Last month, the young man’s mother, Taesha Hunt, said a detective had called her saying foul play was possible in her son’s death. She the detective also told her there was damage to the inside of her son’s truck.
“He said ‘I looked in the front seat and I see the radio kicked, the dashboard kicked in, like somebody just beat it up,’” she said.
The coroner’s office refuted that, saying, “There is no reported documentation or photographs which show damage to the interior of the truck or the injuries described in the online post.”
“It was [also] reported that Taemon Blair had defensive wounds present, there is no reported documentation or photographs which show any wounds other than the ligature marks on the body of Taemon Blair,” the statement continued. “There is an (online) report that the dashboard of the truck was caved in from kicking and his leg was broken. In the same posting it is reported that his neck was severed from ear to ear from what looks like fish hooks.”
The report went onto explain that an autopsy wasn’t necessary to determine the manner and cause of Blair’s death, and that one was not ordered through the coroner’s office.
“[This] is consistent with the protocol and past practice of the office,” it concluded.