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Jerell White’s body found in Primus pond

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Sheriff: No initial evidence at scene indicating foul play

By Greg Summers

On the fourth day of an exhausting search, Jerell White’s body was found Saturday in a pond off Pleasant Road in the Primus community, not far from where he went missing after an altercation at a July 5 party.
An autopsy was performed Sunday, but the Lancaster County Coroner’s Office said Tuesday that results will not be made public for some time.
“The final and complete autopsy results are expected to be available in approximately 2-3 weeks,” the office said in a release.
Lancaster County Coroner Karla Deese met with White’s family Tuesday to discuss the investigation and its expected timeline, the release said.
The search for White ended about 9 a.m. Saturday when his body was recovered from a small pond near where he was last seen on security video climbing over a fence.
Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile said that as of Tuesday, no evidence of foul play had been uncovered, and that his office would continue investigating and await the toxicology and autopsy results.
“We haven’t seen anything at this point that indicates foul play, but we are going to investigate fully and go from there based on those findings,” Faile said.
Authorities and White’s family had been frantically searching for the 22-year-old Benedict College student since midday July 5. He was last seen about 1 a.m. July 5 after leaving a party at a nearby home. A police incident report said White had walked away from a fight.

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‘My baby brother’
On Saturday, the bad news shook White’s family to the core. While some standing in a nearby yard softly sang, others tried to console his family.
“That’s my baby brother,” lamented an emotional Keith White, who was comforted by friends and family members. “He was the best man at my wedding. What hurts the most is I wasn’t there for him.”
The elder White was embittered, saying the area where his brother was found had not been adequately searched.
“We’ve been coming out here faithfully every day at 7 o’clock looking for answers,” he said tearfully. “They were looking in the wrong place.”
Faile said the body was found in one of the first areas searched.
“It’s a terrible situation and I can’t fathom what it is to go through something like this,” Faile said, noting that this was not the outcome anyone hoped for.            
A State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) forensics team was been called in to investigate. Faile said the scene did not look suspicious, but nothing will be ruled out, pending further investigation.
“We don’t want anyone out there to think we are hiding anything,” he said.
Faile urged the community to pray for White’s family in the upcoming days.

Family calls for calm

The White family held a 4:30 p.m. Saturday press conference at their church, The Master’s Next Dimension Church in Lancaster, pleading for calm. Jerell White had played drums and keyboards there.
Pastor Altheresa Goode-Howard said there had been social media threats against the owners of the property where  White’s body was found. Some posts accused the owners, who are white, of obstructing the investigation out of racial motives. White was black.
“We’ve heard about some things that have been put on Facebook and all this talk that’s going around of retaliation to get folks together and go out and do things to this one or that one they think may be behind this,” Good-Howard said.
However, after talking with that family, Goode-Howard said she saw no racial issues. She called it a distraction that points everyone in the wrong direction.    
“We don’t want anybody else to be hurt or anyone else’s lives to be threatened. That won’t help the situation,” she said.
Catina Duncan, the church’s assistant pastor, said the property owners let authorities search every building they had multiple times. The owners, she said, willingly gave authorities surveillance video that showed Jerell White crossing a pasture fence and heading off into the woods.
Duncan said the owners could’ve easily erased the recording and no one would have known otherwise. That video, she said, steered searchers to the area where White’s body was eventually found.  
“A lot of things have gotten crossed up on social media,” Duncan said. “Stop sharing the myths and stop sharing the posts. This lady has done nothing…. She’s in fear of being in her own home.”
Jerell’s mom, Regina White, as well as his sister, Detasha White, briefly spoke. Detasha White called the social media conflict a character issue, not a color issue.
“It’s been a long week,” said an exhausted Regina White.
Regina White also said she was thankful for a little closure, though many questions remained unanswered at this time.
“It’s not how I wanted it to be…. It’s been a long week because I didn’t know where my baby was,” she said, in a soft voice. “I wouldn’t wish this on nobody.”      

Editor's note: The updated story on White's disappearance published in the Sunday, July 9, edition of The Lancaster News was written late Friday, July 7. The updated story here published Wednesday, July 12.
 
Follow reporter Greg Summers on Twitter @GregSummersTLN or contact him at (803) 283-1156.