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No charges filed in Tabor City lawn mower death

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THE FOLLOWING IS A NEWS RELEASE FROM DISTRICT ATTORNEY JON DAVID

On August 17, 2011, Mario Lewis Jr. died in Tabor City from massive head trauma associated with an injury he received from a lawn mower. Law Enforcement contacted my office at an early stage and we began working closely together to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding this tragic incident.

The investigation is now complete, and I am in a position to make a final determination. After an extensive review, law enforcement and I have concluded that no criminal charges will be filed in connection with this untimely death. In reaching this conclusion, I have carefully reviewed photographs of the scene, photographs of the victim’s injuries and reports of witness interviews conducted by both the Tabor City Police Department and the State Bureau of Investigation.

By way of summation, the investigation revealed that on the day of the incident, Jamie Devon Todd was trying to make some extra money by mowing lawns in and around his neighborhood. Earlier that day, Mr. Todd had been given a Snapper riding lawnmower by a relative. This lawnmower had a malfunction which required that the blade remain engaged at all times, even when the mower was sitting still.

Mr. Todd went to the home of Ashley Hemmingway, the mother of Mario Lewis Jr. Mr. Todd is related to Mario and by all accounts displayed loving behavior toward the child. Mr. Todd was hired by Ms. Hemmingway to mow the lawn. Mr. Todd used a push-type mower to cut the grass in the front yard. During this time, Mario was sitting and playing on the Snapper mower, which was in an off position. When Mr. Todd finished cutting the front yard with the push mower, he gave Mario a ride on the Snapper mower up and down the street.

Mr. Todd proceeded to the back yard, where he began to cut the grass with the riding mower. At this point in time, Mario was on his lap. Again, the mower did not belong to Mr. Todd and he was not fully acquainted with its operation. After making one or two cuts around the yard, Mr. Todd took Mario off of the mower and put the lawnmower in neutral so that he could move a trampoline out of his way. As Mr. Todd lifted the trampoline, he heard Mario yell. When he looked around, he saw Mario running from the mower which was apparently back in gear. It is unclear whether Mario engaged the mower or if it went back in gear because of a malfunction. The mower hit Mario, pinning him to the ground and causing injury to his leg. In a panic, Mr. Todd ran to Mario and jerked the mower off of the child in an effort to save him from further harm. As he did so, the blade of the mower angled upward and struck Mario in the head. Mario died as a result of the blow from the blade.

In short, our investigation has revealed this death occurred accidentally during the time that Mr. Todd was attempting to render aid to Mario Lewis Jr. The testimonial account of Mr. Todd is corroborated by the physical evidence. The death of such a young child under these circumstances is horrific, yet the facts lead us to the inescapable conclusion that this was a tragic accident with an unforeseen consequence. Justice requires that no criminal charges be filed.

Last week, members of law enforcement and I met with the family of Mario Lewis Jr. to review the evidence and share our decision not to file criminal charges against Mr. Todd in relation to Mario’s death. I invited the family, and if they desire, a civil attorney of their choosing, to come to my office at a later time to review the entire investigative file. After hearing the facts, the family agreed that Mr. Todd should not be criminally charged as they likewise view this death as accidental in nature.

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