Demonstrators demand that the case surround Jesse Maness' death be reopened. (Steve Sbraccia, WNCN)
SILER CITY, N.C. -
The mother of a man whose body was pulled from a creek in Siler City in 2012 is making a plea to reopen the investigation into her son's death.
Jesse Maness' body was found in Flat Creek six days after he was last seen in a parking lot of a restaurant in Siler City in October 2012. He was found 30 feet upstream from the car in about 18 inches of stagnant water.
Investigators called Maness' death an accident, saying he drove off the bridge on his way home; but his mother, Kathy Gaines, says it was murder.
Kathy Gaines maintains that Maness' car was tampered with, and a rock was used keep the accelerator forced open.
She said Maness was also found dressed in only a T-shirt and boxers, which Kathy Gaines said is evidence that the 24-year-old came home the night of his death.
Maness' stepfather, Danny Gaines, who worked for many years in law enforcement, said there is enough evidence and suspicion for the case to be re-opened.
"There were no skid marks on the pavement," Danny Gaines pointed out. "The car rode the top of the concrete until it got to the end here at the corner. You can see the scratches the car made where it went over."
The family said a witness later told them that he now regrets helping to stage the accident, telling them that Maness' body was kept in a freezer or cooler. Kathy Gaines said a search party even looked under the bridge where Maness was found, but at the time, they didn't see anything.
"Nothing there," Kathy Gaines said. "Then six days later, all of a sudden it's there."
Kathy Gaines said a medical examiner told her that Maness had been dead anywhere from 24 hours to three days, and that his body had not been in the water for more than 24 hours.
The Randolph County Sheriff's Office said the case is closed and it stands by the highway patrol's findings. But Maness' family said it won't rest until the case is reopened
The family has created a Facebook page -- Justice for Jesse -- and a petition on Change.org calling for law enforcement to take another look into Maness' death.