Chatham mom demands 'Justice for Jesse'
A year and a half after Jesse Maness went missing in Siler City and was later found dead just over the Randolph County line in Bennett, his mother believes law enforcement investigators never gave proper attention to her son's case.
In fact, the agencies consider the case closed because Maness, a Chatham County resident who was 24 when he died in October 2012, reportedly was found to have drowned after crashing his car into a creek a week after he went missing.
But Kathy Gaines — his mother, who believes her son was actually murdered — claims the autopsy ignored contradictory findings by the the N.C. Highway Patrol, which led the investigation, and the Randolph County Sheriff's Office, which assisted.
"When she looked back at it, she said, 'You're right. There's not enough here to indicate he drowned,'" Gaines recalled the medical examiner telling her after Gaines said she called and convinced her to check out all the files.
But, Gaines added, that didn't matter because the case is officially closed.
So Gaines started an online movement several months ago to try to force a new investigation. To further that end, she has organized a rally at the Randolph County Courthouse Friday to try to push officials along. Anyone who wants to attend is more than welcome, she said.
The protest will begin at 10 a.m. at the courthouse, located at 176 E. Salisbury St. in Asheboro. Gaines has lots of friends and family in Chatham and Lee counties and has gained many Randolph County supporters since she began her efforts, she said, so she's hoping for a big crowd.
In addition to the evidence she has collected on her own and shared with authorities — which she says indicates the accident was staged to cover up signs of murder — she also said she has even more evidence that she will keep secret for now.
"I'm holding off until I know somebody for real is investigating Jesse's case," Gaines said. "... Because right at this point, I don't trust anybody."
Randolph County Sheriff Maynard Reid, who has frequently been the subject of Gaines's wrath, said the mistrust goes both ways.
"There is no substance to any of these allegations she has made," Reid said, adding, "I feel sorry for the lady, for the loss of her son, but every allegation that she has brought up has been thoroughly checked out not only by this agency, but the Chatham County Sheriff's Office, the Pittsboro Police — everybody in the world."
Gaines said she even presented a man claiming to have witnessed the murder, and still no one will reopen the case. Reid said the man left soon after sitting down with investigators, saying he needed to speak with a lawyer first.
"The lawyer called us and said, 'This guy is a crackhead, don't believe anything he says,'" Reid claims.
Based on that experience and other debunked leads, Reid said no further investigation is warranted.
So Gaines is trying to get the State Bureau of Investigations to take over. She said the Randolph County District Attorney's office did grant her request to ask the SBI to look into it, for which she's grateful. District Attorney Garland Yates couldn't be reached for comment.
More than 4,200 people — many of them from Randolph, Chatham and Lee counties — agree with Gaines and have signed a petition on change.org saying the case ought to be re-opened.
Reid, however, said he doesn't know what else a reasonable person could expect to be done.
"I can't bring the boy back," he said. "I don't know if she's just looking for somebody to blame ... but every allegation she's made has been thoroughly investigated by not just this agency, but by others."
But no matter if Friday's rally directly causes change or not, Gaines said she won't give up on her son.
"I just want him to get what he deserves," she said.
WHAT: "Justice for Jesse" rally
WHERE: Randolph County Courthouse, located at 176 E. Salisbury St. in Asheboro
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Friday