Seeking Justice for Cephus
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017.
Honorable Donald Trump, President to the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500
Phone: (202) 456-1111
Alt Phone: (202) 456-1414
Dear Mr. President,
My name is Tabatha Speakman; I am the daughter to the late Lieutenant Donald Speakman, who served as a Military Police officer with the United States Air Force starting at the age of eighteen years old, where he served for many years. Later, my father went on to serve as Lieutenant with OSU in Columbus, Ohio. I am also the mother to the late James Cephus Potts (Cephus), who was found deceased July 13, 2012, just ten days before his nineteenth birthday.
Cephus was killed by execution-style gunshot wounds to the back of the head, by a gun that was wiped clean of any finger prints or blood. Somehow, his death was ruled a suicide, but as you can tell from what I’ve said, suicide could not be possible. It is with this information, and my gut instincts as Cephus’ mother, that I knew I needed to seek justice for my son since his untimely death.
He was murdered, and what’s more; why would they say it was a suicide?
With these questions and more, I have sought justice and answers ever since. Along my resulting journey, I have not been able to get justice for Cephus just yet, but I have gained some answers I needed to find just enough of the truth of my son’s death to know that it was not a death by suicide.
Before his passing, my father fought hard alongside me to seek justice for Cephus. When my father passed, the year after Cephus died, I made a promise to him that I would get justice for Cephus, and to my last breath, I intend to keep that promise.
Mr. President, the Democratic Commonwealth and Republic of the United States, please allow me to preface what I’m requesting from you in sharing this journey, starting from the very beginning. In this way, it will come across like a report-styled story, highlighting the various points in time detrimental in, leading up to, and the aftermath of my son’s death.
Cephus’ history with Reynoldsburg Police Department
Going all the way back to the beginning, various officers working at Reynoldsburg Police Department seemed to be rather partial to ‘picking on’ Cephus. This will become ever apparent with each part of the timeline I go over in this letter. But, getting to the beginning …
Cephus was a kid with three diagnosed medical conditions; developmental disability/delay (MRDD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and he just made it to the Autism spectrum as being slightly Autistic. In Reynoldsburg, Ohio, his difficulties didn’t stop Cephus from making friends, but they may have been considered vulnerabilities when it came to interacting with other kids in the area. Thus, when the kids he was acquainted with got in any trouble, he was the one who bore the brunt of it from the police at Reynoldsburg Police Department.
On December 2, 2011, Cephus was with a local kid by the name of Brandon Burtyk. Allow me to state here that both youths were eighteen years of age at that time.
Brandon had decided that it was a good time to fire off a gun that he purchased within city limits. That action caught the attention of Reynoldsburg Police Department. In Ohio, it is classed a felony for minors under the age of twenty-one years to be in possession of a handgun, or to sell or provide a fire arm to a minor under twenty-one. Thus, both kids were arrested and brought in for questioning.
Brandon told the police that Cephus fired the gun, but when both were tested for gunshot residue, only Brandon tested positive, so Cephus was released by police
Upon further questioning of Brandon, Reynoldsburg Police found that he obtained the gun from one Thomas McGill, who was nineteen years of age at that time. This person was not known to Cephus at all. But, because Cephus was present at the time the gun was used to fire off in city limits, he was forced to be a state’s witness in the subsequent court proceedings against Brandon Burtyk, and Thomas McGill.
Despite Cephus’ medical conditions and inability to understand any documents or reports fully, Reynoldsburg Police Department and the local department of justice classed Cephus as state’s evidence against the two other youths for the firearms. To be clear, Reynoldsburg Police Department did not ensure that there was a MRDD or other support worker available to work with Cephus through these proceedings. Suffice to say, the police of Reynoldsburg did not ensure that Cephus understood everything as it was put in front of him.
As far as forcing Cephus into the position of a state’s witness against Thomas McGill specifically, Cephus did not have any first-hand knowledge of this individual. Any information he would have on Thomas would have been second-hand information, or hearsay, from Brandon and other people.
Even more troubling, is that from this point forward, with the Reynoldsburg Police Department forcing Cephus into the position of state’s witness/evidence, this put Cephus at great risk for facing retaliation from Brandon and other local kids.
In the coming weeks and months, Cephus would face being bullied, beaten and more. Not just at the hands of Brandon, or other youths, either. Although, Brandon did some unspeakable things even prior to this event in January, 2011.
Sure enough, conflicts and confrontations arose. Starting with retaliations at the hands of Brandon, who started making threats to Cephus by various methods including written threats online via social media. When I found this out, I printed the threats and evidence and I took it all to the Reynoldsburg Police Department. When I showed them the threats, to my utter dismay, they advised me that they would not promise or do anything to protect Cephus.
When I asked what would be done in the event Cephus was to defend himself against Brandon, I was told that both youths would be arrested. I was absolutely furious.
On April 14, 2012, Brandon along with a friend, approached Cephus while Cephus was seated in the driver’s seat of his grandfather’s car, with Cephus’ grandfather in the passenger side of the vehicle. Brandon tried to get Cephus out of the car using physical intimidation and attempts at provoking a fight with Cephus. Cephus didn’t want to fight, and so he didn’t exit the car. Instead, he left the area, first pulling the car forward, forcing Brandon and his friend to back up away from the car, and then he drove away. Cephus was upset by this.
Brandon went into the police station with his friend who was present at the time, and made a false police report and complaint against Cephus stating he tried to ‘run’ both boys over with the car. Reynoldsburg Police Department did an investigation only to find that Brandon was using physical intimidation but couldn’t even charge him with that.
In the process of their investigation, they also found that after the confrontation in Cephus’ grandfather’s car, the next day, on April 15, 2012, Brandon ran into Cephus at the local skate park, attacking him.
First thing Brandon did was hit Cephus in the face with his closed fist while Cephus wasn’t looking. Cephus was half-seated on his bike at that time. Then, Brandon went from hitting Cephus in the face, to shoving Cephus off his bike. Next thing Cephus knew, Brandon took the bike from Cephus and drove away with it.
All that Reynoldsburg Police Department did to Brandon was send a letter to him over a month later stating that because he did not pursue charges against Cephus for attempted assault with a vehicle, they were going to close the case.
Let me clarify, the police did not lay charges against Brandon for assault, theft nor any of the related harassment and threats, even though this all was documented by all involved, including myself as Cephus’ mother, and the Reynoldsburg Police Department.
For the record, Mr. President, before Brandon attacked Cephus at the local skate park, there was prior knowledge. There were threats made to Cephus and I did talk to Cephus about it, telling him he should go to the police about Brandon. But Cephus didn’t want any more trouble and told me he didn’t want to “tell on anybody”. It was at that point that I went to the police at Reynoldsburg Police Department, with the printed out threats in hand, and that’s when they told me that they wouldn’t do anything to protect Cephus, but would charge both youths if Cephus defended himself. When Brandon took Cephus’ bike, Cephus finally agreed and went to the police, himself; even still, Reynoldsburg Police Department wouldn’t do anything but take his complaint and send a letter to Brandon later on regarding Brandon’s own complaint.
When we found Brandon and the bike, both I and Cephus called to advise that we found him and the bike, but they wouldn’t send anyone to confiscate and return Cephus’ bike.
Cephus takes on the world
It seemed as though Cephus was always a target in Reynoldsburg, even before he was forced into state’s witness.
Cephus had no problems making friends, but he seemed to make the wrong friends, also facing targeted bullying from other kids. Make no mistakes about it, Mr. President, that didn’t keep Cephus down, and he continued on with his friends, and those he thought were his friends. He trusted these kids. But every time they went out and caused just a little bit of trouble, or caught the attention of the police, Cephus was the one to wear the brunt of verbal abuse and targeting from the officers of Reynoldsburg Police Department.
Most often, these interactions or confrontations with Cephus and the police were not documented but I have access to the police reports of incidents surrounding these interactions and abuses. Nowhere on these documents are the abusive comments of any officers to Cephus referenced, not even in a diplomatic fashion.
There were many of the police officers who targeted Cephus from the Reynoldsburg Police Department, but of those who did, Michele Fulton was the worst. Come to think of it, when Brandon Burtyk and Cephus were both arrested by police back in January, 2011, Fulton was right there with her abusive comments to Cephus.
That fateful day in January, 2011, Fulton knew that Cephus didn’t fire off the gun, but her comment to him was unforgivable just the same. I considered not repeating it to you Mr. President, but it needs documentation here and now. When Reynoldsburg Police Department were dealing with the gun fire, Fulton looked at Cephus and said “I knew your scummy a** would be back”.
In other incidents, Fulton made other comments to Cephus and name-called “sleezy a**”. Everywhere Cephus was, and every time he was with youths catching some attention, there Fulton was. When the kids were mistreating Cephus, bullying and using physical intimidation against him, Cephus went to Fulton, and she was right there to simply smile and walk away from him, ignoring his plea for help.
These kids invited Cephus over to an area that they weren’t even supposed to be at in the first place, and Cephus didn’t know it, but Fulton ended up giving him a charge of trespassing to an area he was invited to. That happened more than once.
Reynoldsburg Police Department knew of Cephus and his difficulties; his diagnoses of MRDD, ADHD and they knew he was classed on the Autism Spectrum. I can’t stress enough that he wasn’t able to understand the trespass orders, the reports and statements, nor the subpoenas from the police and courts. Reynoldsburg Police Department did not ensure a support worker was available for Cephus at any time to ensure he understood anything. In short, they did not make sure Cephus understood any paper work. So much for the Miranda Rights when it comes to special needs in Reynoldsburg.
I didn’t know it at the time, but it was later disclosed to me that for quite some time, Michele Fulton was apparently trying to build a case against Cephus, even though he had no prior criminal records.
Even in death, my son cannot rest, Mr. President. For all the seeking & fighting I have done to date for justice, even soon after his death, the local Mayor of Reynoldsburg, Mayor Brad McCloud, put a very public statement on his own Word Press regarding Cephus that started "F**k Cephus! He didn't help society in the first place..."
Cephus did not deserve this and even though Mayor McCloud was forced to remove that statement, I have yet to receive a personal apology from the mayor. No mother should have to endure the loss of their child, and no mother should have to endure the injustices that have surrounded Cephus’ case to date. And no mother should ever have to endure from their mayor that their child’s life didn’t matter and doesn’t matter.
Mr. President, it was as if the whole town of Reynoldsburg, from the Mayor, to the Reynoldsburg Police Department to some of the other youths, just didn’t care about Cephus at all. They didn’t care about his life, and they didn’t care about his safety. They certainly disregarded his legal, civil and human rights at every level, before and after death. And here I am, five years later, seeking justice in his name.
The following events chronicle to the best of my ability, what happened, with as little personal input as possible.
The night Cephus died, the Reynoldsburg Police Department investigation and the consistently inconsistent reports regarding James Cephus Potts’ death
On the night of July 12, 2012, a concerned citizen called the Reynoldsburg Police Department when they heard multiple gun shots fired off in the wooded area near their home. It is believed that there was no resulting investigation into the shots fired. The next day around 2:30 pm on July 13th, 2012, Cephus was found dead, with wounds to the back of his head, by passerby, Josh E. Smith.
Reynoldsburg Police Department reflected in their reports that Cephus was found dead, with a Wesson Smith .38 caliber revolver laying near his body and beer bottles surrounding the area. Reynoldsburg Police Department also documented in their reports that Cephus suffered a gunshot to the right temple.
The original reports on Reynoldsburg Police Department’s file for Cephus’ death did not show any ballistics reports for the gun on the scene, nor any gunshot residue tests to his hands. But, Reynoldsburg Police Department’s investigating police officer of the scene, ruled that Cephus’ death was a suicide, as documented in their reports.
The report went on to state that Cephus’ grandmother (my mother) was questioned about Cephus. Reynoldsburg Police Department reports showed that my mother told the investigating officer that Cephus had expressed suicidal thoughts a couple days or so prior, in threatening to ‘kill himself’. This was false information. The report continues, however, that my mother also stated that, on the day Cephus died, he went to her house asking for his grandfather’s gun, and then left in his car appearing “strung out”. These reported investigations reflected false information as my mother did not make those claims.
(What was actually said, was from my father <Cephus’ grandfather> that Cephus seemed ‘out of it’ when he was at my parents’ residence, that Cephus was stumbling a bit. Mr. President, my son was prone to suffering seizures, which made him appear intoxicated to those who wouldn’t know he suffered. Prior to my father answering that question, my mother told the investigating police officer, when asked if Cephus seemed intoxicated, that she did not smell alcohol and she did not see any signs of Cephus drinking.)
The Reynoldsburg Police Department reports go on to say that Cephus’ grandfather went to locate his gun, but learned it was missing. (At the very same time all this was happening, someone else reported their gun missing, and my father did not report his gun was missing; in other words, not only were these further false claims, but the reporting officers assumed that there was no one else in the area with the same type of gun my father had owned. These reports also assumed that I would not find out about this other revolver that was reported missing from another unrelated party.)
In the following days after Cephus’ death, one of his friends confided in me that they knew Cephus was murdered, and went into detail of how this was true. With that new information, I went to the police and was told “We will not be reopening your son’s case, no matter what new evidence you may have.” As if the shock of his death wasn’t enough, but the added shock of no justice served by authorities and refusal to reopen the case was a severe blow.
My subsequent journey in seeking justice for Cephus
With the help of my family, back in July of 2012, I approached the Franklin County Coroner’s Office to be turned away, much to my further shock.
Upon receiving a second opinion, at that particular time, it was said to me that the bullet trajectory was not consistent with that of a suicide. Even though there was no stippling around the wound to Cephus’ head, and the second opinion contradicted the reports of Reynoldsburg Police Department, I was turned away again.
Regarding my understanding as to what stippling means in Cephus’ case; it was explained to me that stippling is a principle indicator in close-range fire, and the lack thereof indicates that the shots Cephus sustained had to come from a distance of no less than two feet away.
For the coming years, we fought and fought. We had a petition signed by around three thousand signatures to have the case reexamined. It wasn’t until March of 2015 that this would finally happen in Reynoldsburg.
Reynoldsburg Police reports indicated that my family sent emails and letters to various offices of authority but made no reference to the petition. Just the same, they stated that on May 13, 2015, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien called the department and suggest that the investigation be reopened to “have the touch DNA on the gun compared to James Potts’ DNA”. On May 14, 2015, Reynoldsburg Police Department communicated in the report that a BCI Submission Sheet was filled out in request of the DNA analysis.
The communication looked like this:
On 05/14/2015 I filled out a BCI Submission Sheet requesting BCI to analyze the following items
1. Tag # 45031-22 (BCI container 12-15419 C#1) Blind swab from hammer of Smith and Wesson .38 caliber revolver, serial number 58745
2. Tag # 45031-5 Blind swab from trigger of Smith and Wesson .38 caliber revolver, serial number 58745
3. Tag # 45031-13 2-buccal swabs from James Potts
But in the responsive report regarding the analysis, the documentation was conflicting with the request, stating as follows:
C#1 One KPAK containing
2.1 Swab from hammer of revolver (45031-4)
Submitted on May 21, 2015 by William Rickwald
3. One manila envelope containing oral swabs from James Potts #45031-13
4. One manila envelope containing swabs from trigger of S&W revolver #45031-5
At this point, the analysis reported no DNA match. They claimed “no DNA profile”. This means Cephus’ DNA was not found on the gun in any way.
As documented, I quoted the communications above regarding the analysis of evidence in Cephus’ death. What I’m showing here, is that there are still inconsistencies in documentation of the Reynoldsburg Police Department, even three years (at the point of these police reports and analysis) after my son’s death.
Between the “Tags” of #45031-22 and #45031-4, Mr. President, it would appear that either one of two things has transpired:
1. There was a clerical error in reporting (which has happened all too often throughout Reynoldsburg Police Department reports), or
2. There is yet another gun, that the police department has access to, but failed to document from the very beginning, until 2015.
Honorable Mr. President, with all the inconsistencies in the reports reflected from Reynoldsburg Police Department, including all the holes in the reporting, the lack of ballistics analysis in the beginning; it all points to a very obvious cover-up of evidence, withholding information, and creates major suspicions that either police force members, or their loved ones, were involved directly or indirectly to my son’s murder.
I did make reference to my son being targeted by the police officers and authorities, as well as various members of the community in this letter already, but the documentation, or lack thereof, and the abuse of Cephus’ case/investigation speaks for itself.
Mr. President, it is for these reasons and more that I ask that you help me get justice for my baby boy. If not for me, but for my son, and for all the Cephus’ out there; let us finally get justice for Cephus!
My journey for justice continued …
You see, Honorable Mr. President, in my fight for justice in Cephus’ name, I have gained some level of recognition via social media, where people would reach out to me to express support, concern, sympathy and more. However, we’ll get to that a little later in this letter.
Prior to Reynoldsburg Police Department finally reopening Cephus’ case in May of 2015, I enlisted the help of a hired Private Investigator by the name of Cerise Allen, employed at that time by Jim Sylvania of Sylvania Investigative Services, based in Columbus, Ohio. Cerise promised results.
After paying a one-thousand-dollar retainer fee to Cerise, she provided me with a contract that we entered into together on March 10, 2015. From that point forward, Cerise promised to get answers, but only provided little with more money paid to her (totaling in the end of forty-one hundred dollars, altogether) along the way. Suffice to say, that did not end well, and I had to fight for my son’s belongings back.
My concerns with Cerise also include finding out that she lost three interview recordings from her cellular telephone that could have done more than broke open the case for my son, but could have incriminated someone, or some people in the matter. Cerise claimed these audio files went missing when her cellular telephone did software updates.
Because of Cerise’s neglect in her investigation, my fiancée called her employer regarding the matter, but Mr. Sylvania didn’t take the call, and never responded in anyway. I also sent him an email, with no response.
Cerise Allen misled me in other areas of her investigation into my son’s death, such as telling me she turned all evidence over to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s office, to which the Prosecutor’s office claimed Cerise did not do.
I went quite some time contacting the investigative firm Cerise worked under trying to gain access to the evidence she had left, and in attempts to regain access to my son’s belongings which Cerise obtained from my daughter (Cephus’ sister) in the early weeks of her investigation. Sylvania Investigative Services did not have any knowledge of any of the evidence, nor my son’s belongings and thus, I sent an angry email to Cerise. I wanted clarification from Cerise as to what happened to all evidence in her possession pertinent to Cephus, and I requested that she send the items, evidence and any information to me that she did not already provide.
Cerise was not happy but was reluctantly compliant after some heated words, so long as I paid the postal fees to receive the items which included Cephus’ black tee-shirt and his ball cap. Everything but the three missing interviews was all sent back to me.
While I was in conflict with Cerise and fighting for Cephus’ belongings to be returned to me, Carol Lynn Malone of Cold Case Justice approached me via social media, and offered her help and services, pro bono.
Thus, my fight in justice for Cephus continues…
I was approached in January of 2016 by one Carol Lynn Malone, who claimed to be a certified cold case death investigator (which is still publicly stated in her Twitter bio as I write this letter), that she was certified in forensic pathology, and much more, only to find out when it was too late, in the end that Carol grossly misrepresented her true professional position.
Regardless of outcome, from January, 2016 until June, 2016, we worked together, and Carol earned my trust along the way until she requested the evidence in my son’s murder. I was just elated at the possibility that someone would finally re-open and re-examine my son’s death in a more in-depth and accurate investigation.
But June of 2016, would mark the beginning of more heartbreak and head aches, resulting in me fighting for my son’s belongings and evidence back, yet again, in attempts at continuing the journey and fight of justice for Cephus.
On June 7, 2016, I sent the packaged evidence items with a money order in the amount of one hundred dollars to Carol Malone of Virginia, to the attention of Cold Case Justice (the name in which Carol claimed she had a business licensed under). About three days later, she sent me a message in confirmation of her receipt.
Carol promised after that point, that she would have the evidence processed for human blood, and DNA for answers as to who was around my son the night he died.
For the next several months, I bared witness to Carol’s reasons & excuses after excuses as to why her promise hadn’t been fulfilled. Reasons ranged from working long hours at work (for what company? I don’t know), to her niece (in another state) going in and out of hospital with aneurisms, down to “I will when I get paid”. Carol never clarified with me what that last statement meant but it was the last put off she gave to me directly.
I endured all these excuses and procrastinations from Carol while I was diagnosed with and suffering early treatment/plans for cancer. The stress this ordeal with Carol has caused me has hindered my health, there’s no doubt about it, but the added stress and pain of cancer is like I’m now on borrowed time. Until I’m cured, I am on borrowed time. And still seeking justice for Cephus.
In March of 2017, Carol has not only refused to return the money she took from me for services she did not provide, but she has also refused to return Cephus’ belongings and evidence to me, or to a third party. Let me clarify that I asked for the items to be either forwarded to Scott Hamilton, who Carol identified as a business partner, or to be returned to myself. Carol refused to forward the items to Scott, and she said she would return the items to myself, but she never did.
By the end of March, I reached out for help and other supporters of my fight in seeking justice for Cephus stepped forward and reached out to Carol. To one person, Carol advised I would have to get a court order, then she advised to yet another party that she disposed of the evidence, then stated to that same person that Carol sent the items and evidence to Reynoldsburg Police Department. A later claim from Carol was that she would turn evidence over to the police if approached.
From these points forward, Carol has gone on to slander mine and my son’s names via her Twitter account, she has publicly taunted me and my supporters with these items, and has harassed myself, my fiancée and supporters of justice for Cephus, one of which she has targeted for libel, slander and further harassment.
Carol has also refused to return the money in the amount of the money order I paid to her and her private firm of Cold Case Justice. Carol possesses not only private information but information that could be classified as further evidence in Cephus’ case, and has publicly displayed my private contact information via social media, putting me and my family in harm’s way.
Subsequently, I feel as though I have been targeted, swindled and stolen from. Carol Malone still claims to be a cold case and death investigator, but will not return the items that belong to me at this point, claiming publicly that she “is not a storage locker” and that she has disposed of the items which I and others have asked for and demanded to be returned. As to why Carol is doing this to me and Cephus’ memory is beyond me. I can’t be sure at this point if she was paid off by an unknown person seeking further cover-up in Cephus’ case or if she is simply just thriving on some feigned power from controlling Cephus’ belongings and my personal information.
I have to take this opportunity to note, as well, that unfortunately all the money I paid out to Cerise Allen and to Carol Malone of upwards of forty-two hundred dollars, had to come from Cephus’ head stone fund, as I could not otherwise afford to pay these … “fees”. Suffice to say, I cannot afford to pay for a lawyer to help undo all the damage that has been done.
As you may be able to tell, I am in dire need for help, and it is now that I reach out to you for that help, Mr. President, and the help of the American citizens to finally obtain justice for Cephus. Let us hold Carol Lynn Malone criminally responsible for the misrepresentation of her position, for the swindling of money and evidence in Cephus’ case from me. Let us hold Cerise Allen responsible for her tampering with and withholding evidence for quite some time, and for her further corruption into this case. Let us hold those in positions of authority at Reynoldsburg accountable for their misrepresentations of the facts, the cover ups, and the obstruction of justice in Cephus’ case.
It is with this letter, and all the information listed within, that I implore and petition for your assignment to, and the employment of, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, *in conjunction with Scioto County Sheriff's Office, to open and investigate Cephus’ case, and to investigate all pertinent parties to date who have corrupted Cephus’ case, evidence and information, holding all those parties legally responsible. Please find who attacked my son the night he died. Please help me to fulfill my promise to my father, the late Lieutenant Donald Speakman.
I ask also, Mr. President, to ensure that this never happens again, that you pass a law in Cephus’ name (thus calling it “Cephus’ Law”), that will never allow a person with special needs to be swept under the proverbial rug and ignored by society. “Cephus’ Law” would stipulate that any violence, abuse and resulting death of a person with MRDD and similar disabilities be properly investigated and automatically turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
I will add at this time, that no family should ever have to endure the loss of a child, and that any questionable death should never be automatically ruled a suicide without a full and in depth investigation.
Mr. President, we, the undersigned, petition for the above requested support, and criminal investigations be fulfilled under your office.
Tabatha (Potts) Speakman,
Justice for Cephus
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