An autopsy has determined that a South Lake Tahoe teen found under a tree that fell in a storm earlier this month died instantly, according to police.
Dejon Smith, 14, was found under a large pine tree in the fenced backyard of a vacant residence on Rancho Circle in South Lake Tahoe on Dec. 13.
“The Smith family extends their sincere thanks to the businesses, schools and families who have supported them through this difficult time,” the teen’s family said in a statement released through police.
Media reports after the teen’s death indicated his family was critical of the speed with which South Lake Tahoe police searched for the teen. A press release Thursday documents the search for the teen and sheds new light on his activity shortly before his death.
Police said he left home on Dec. 11, telling his parents he intended to go out for the evening because school was canceled the next day due to stormy conditions. He did not say exactly where he was going.
His parents reported that Smith had recently gone missing, turning up in nearby Douglas County, Nev. His Dec. 11 disappearance was entered into a law enforcement database.
Police searched his neighborhood without any luck. The next day, police acted on a tip received by Smith’s parents that he had been with another young person when he disappeared. Police contacted the juvenile named by the tipster in Carson City.
The juvenile admitted to police that he had been with Smith during the storm “checking out houses,” according to the police press release. The juvenile said he heard a tree crash but did not see a tree fall. He ran away frightened and thought Smith had done the same. The juvenile provided a description of the location where the crashing tree was heard.
Officers went to the location and found a house with a fallen tree, but Smith was not there. On Dec. 13, relatives and friends of the Smith family found Dejon’s body crushed under a pine at the rear of a vacation home about a half-mile from the previous search site.
His body was almost completely concealed by the fallen tree, according to police.
Firefighters used chain saws to cut sections of the tree into several pieces to remove the body.
Investigators have several people to question. The number of people with Smith at the time of his death is part of the investigation.
“The evidence, statements and autopsy results all indicate this event was the result of a tragic act of nature, and that no foul play was involved in the demise of Dejon Smith,” stated the police press release.
Anyone with information about the teen’s death may call police at (530) 542-6100.
Call The Bee’s Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.