Prosecutor wraps probe of Black man’s hanging suicide in NJ park
MORRIS TOWNSHIP — An investigation into a 20-year-old Black man's hanging death, which some community activist had doubted was a suicide has finished, with the Morris County Prosecutor's Office sharing more details than they normally would in such cases.
The body of Amanuel "Amani" Kildea, a Washington Township resident, was found on June 28 at Lewis Morris Park, with a rope around his neck that appeared to have been tied to a tree. The grim discovery had been made by others visiting the park, prosecutors previously said.
Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp issued a written statement shortly after, saying that the Medical Examiner's Office had determined Kildea's death to be a suicide and that "there is no cause to believe there is any criminality involved."
Despite the initial autopsy results, a local Black Lives Matter activist and others were not convinced and suggested that Kildea may have been lynched, pointing to a lack of further information shared by Knapp's office in the month or so following the death.
Kildea was known on social media for his work with a youth team that exposed alleged child-sex predators.
An open letter posted by InsiderNJ.com on July 24, lead by Black Lives Matter Morristown, listed at least 14 questions regarding the case, saying "the community has a right to know 'how' Amani died."
A Change.org petition, "Justice for Amani Kildea," also has continued to gain support, totaling more than 807,000 signatures as of Wednesday.
In a news release dated Tuesday, Knapp went into considerable detail about the discovery of Kildea's body just off a hiking trail in the park.
A 911 call had been received before 3 p.m. and first responders found Kildea's body in a near seated position at the base of a tree, with a rope wrapped around his neck, connected to the tree about six-and-a-half feet from the ground.
Kildea’s body was partially suspended several inches off the ground and there were no indications of a struggle at the scene, according to the prosecutor.
Kildea’s wallet and cell phone were in his pocket, his laptop and backpack were "neatly placed" nearby, and Kildea’s car was found in a parking lot at the Park, Knapp said.
Investigators found that Kildea had carried out multiple internet searches related to suicide and also bought the rope used in the incident at a Morris County home improvement center, both earlier that same day.
"While the Morris County Prosecutor does not ordinarily issue public statements containing specific details regarding suicide investigations, there has been a great deal of inquiry related to this investigation," Knapp said.
He also said the findings of the investigation have been shared with the Kildea family, and no further comments would be made out of respect and consideration for them.