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Community holds vigil for teenager after suicide; authorities say investigation remains open


A Coffee County Central High School student committed suicide late Sunday night. And now the community is mourning and searching for answers. 

Channing Smith was a 16-year old student and, according to his brother – Joshua Smith – Channing took his life after other students turned personal screen shot messages over to social media to attempt to “assassinate Channing’s character” because he was gay. Those reported screenshots outed Channing’s sexual orientation.  

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Thunder Radio spoke to Coffee County Sheriff’s Department investigator James Sherrill. According to Sherrill, screenshots of text messages were posted on social media. Sherrill reiterated the investigation is open and that the department is awaiting the results of digital forensics and will present its findings to the District Attorney’s office at a later date. Sherrill said that multiple students have been interviewed. 

On Thursday, a few hundred people gathered, including students, community leaders and concerned citizens for a vigil and singing at Fred Deadman Park. Channing’s mom addressed all of those in attendance. 

“What happened to him should never have happened,” Channing’s mom stated. “I’ll tell your right here and now. You guys need to be a little bit more aware about what you’re posting, how you’re posting it and why you’re posting it. Just because you think it’s cute, or funny to make someone embarrassed or humiliated … think again. Because if someone would have realized that, my son would not be dead. And for the people responsible: I just hope you feel the same pain we do.”

Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott released the following statement on Thursday:

“I, like the rest of the community, am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of the young life of Channing Smith. I express my heartfelt condolences to his family. My office has encouraged, cooperated in and supported the investigation into the events leading to this death. Ethically, I am prohibited from commenting on an open investigation or prosecution. However, procedurally, no charging decisions have been made by my office nor has the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department asked for a decision since the investigation has not been completed. When all relevant facts are available, my office will advise the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department on what charges, if any, we believe are appropriate to help guide it in that decision. Any report that my office has failed or refused to act is inaccurate and I wanted to clarify this for the sake of the Smith family as they do not need the added burden to the already incomprehensible pain that they are experiencing. I would ask for the everyone to extend their prayers for the family and to respect their privacy as this process moves forward.”

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