Family Believes Death Was Murder, Not Accidental

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Knoxville (WVLT) - The Knox County Sheriff's Department is calling the death of a man in a South Knox County pool last week an accidental drowning.

But family members of Justin Walker believe otherwise. They believe the 2002 South Doyle grad was murdered.

Justin Walker's family says the Knox County Sheriff's Office should never have closed the case so soon.

And now they're wondering if the color of his skin played a factor in that.

"We know for a fact that there is foul play in this incident,” says Deborah Porter, Justin’s aunt.

Just before Justin Walker's funeral services, family members spoke out to say they believe his death was murder, not an accident.

Walker drowned in a pool last week and the Knox County Sheriff's Department has preliminarily ruled it an accidental death.

A police report shows Walker was at an Arrowhead subdivision pool with April Dawn King, not far from her Rudder Road home on July 20th when she says he jumped in.

"Justin, of course, did not swim and if he went near a pool he would be fully clothed. He would have not got in any water on his own volition,” says Porter.

The report states King pulled Walker from the water, which the family also questions.

"How could a small frame young lady, probably didn't weight 125 pounds, lift this man out of the pool by herself?" Porter believes King wasn't alone with her nephew. "These are people that we thought he knew, or he thought he knew, but definitely we believe robbery was one of the reasons."

Sheriff J.J. Jones disagrees and says they believe King used pool instruments to get him out and there is no evidence of foul play. "We have no indication of any robbery or any motive."

NAACP president Ezra Maize questioned if race could be a factor, "We do believe that because it was an African-American young man that the sheriff's department took no interest in the facts that were presented."

"Yeah, well, I take issue with that,” Sheriff Jones says. “Each and every witness of a crime or each and every suspect is treated exactly the same."

Attempts to reach April Dawn King both at her home and on the phone were unsuccessful.

Sheriff Jones tells WVLT the case is not officially closed. He says they are still awaiting toxicology reports on the victim; those could be ready in two to three weeks.

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