Journalism with impact
I want to receive independent, investigative local news every day.
A New Jersey prosecutor’s office has opened a new investigation into the death of a Western North Carolina woman.
Despite an official ruling that Felicia Reeves took her own life, her sister Suzan Bayorgeon never stopped seeking to have the case reopened, even after a harassing call earlier this summer from someone claiming to be with the police.
Bayorgeon sent out a steady stream of letters to public officials, posted links to Carolina Public Press articles about the case on public websites and made repeated phone calls hoping to find someone who would listen.
As CPP reported last week, a representative of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s office recently responded to one of Bayorgeon’s letters, promising to refer the case to the Union County (N.J.) Prosecutor’s Office. Reeves has been the subject of an ongoing investigative reporting project by Carolina Public Press.
On Monday, Bayorgeon received an email from Michael Henn, homicide task force supervisor for the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.
After wishing Bayorgeon condolences on the loss of her sister and the recent anniversary of her passing, Henn described a course of action.
Truth delivered daily
“Please be advised that after consulting with Acting Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Ann Luvera, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office will be conducting its own review of the circumstances surrounding the loss of your sister, as well as a review of the investigation done by members of the City of Elizabeth Police Department,” Henn wrote.
Henn’s email said the case would be assigned to a sergeant in his homicide task force and other detectives in that person’s squad, with Henn handling the “legal side of the investigation” personally.
While New Jersey authorities take a second look at Reeves’ death, police in North Carolina may be gathering information about her disappearance for the first time.
Bayorgeon told CPP that the Hendersonville Police Department contacted her last week, promising to seek information on the taxi in which Reeves was seen leaving the Rainbow Motel on Aug. 19, 2015, the last confirmed sighting of her in North Carolina.
Although some of Reeves’ movements around the country prior to her death can be guessed from receipts, her family had no certain knowledge of her whereabouts at the time. But the staff of the Royal Motel in Elizabeth, N.J., reported finding her body hanging in a bathroom Aug. 28, 2015, after cleaning the room she had checked into a few days earlier.
Elizabeth Police seem to have handled the case as a suicide from the beginning, with an autopsy stating its findings were consistent with suicide, but apparently not examining whether that was the only plausible cause of death.
But family members had their doubts about this finding and asked CPP to investigate. Reports published in February, March and earlier this month examined multiple problems with the case for suicide, as well as issues that police had not considered.
Reeves’ parents say they received a strange call from a man demanding credit card information so Reeves could check in to a motel, which timing suggests would have been the Royal Motel. But motel staff have said she checked in alone and they had no male staff on duty at the time.
Evidence suggests Reeves was involved with a multi-state criminal enterprise, possibly engaged in human trafficking, but had described herself as an informant in social media posts in the weeks leading up to her disappearance. She had even predicted that someone would attempt to silence her.
Become a Carolina Public Press insider.
Text INSIDER to (919)897-8555 and be among the first to hear about special events and exclusive content.
Bayorgeon also told CPP last week that the family remains concerned about how Felicia’s ex-husband, Titus Boley, knew that she had died. They said he called them with condolences a short time after they learned of her death, but well before any extended family members were told or any reports appeared in the news or social media. Boley is currently facing drug trafficking charges in Polk County and previously served time in prison for repeated attacks on Reeves, including an attempt to strangle her.
Previous CPP articles about Felicia Reeves
What happened to Felicia Reeves?, Feb. 29, 2016
Family disputes police claims about daughter’s case, March 3, 2016