Hamilton

Inquest into death of 16-year-old Devon Freeman announced

Freeman was reported missing from the Lynwood Charlton Centre in Flamborough in October 2017. He was found dead in a wooded area roughly 35 metres from the home on seven months later.

Grandmother and First Nation called for inquest into 'failures' leading to teen's death

Devon had been missing since Oct. 6., last seen alive near a Hamilton group home. Seven months later, in April 2018, his body was found in a wooded area roughly 35 metres from the home. (Hamilton Police Service)

The regional coroner has called an inquest into the death of Devon Freeman, an Indigenous teenager whose body was found just metres from a group home months after he was reported missing.

The 16-year-old was reported missing from the Lynwood Charlton Centre in Flamborough in October 2017.

His body was discovered in a wooded area roughly 35 metres from the home in April 2018.  According to his family, he had taken his own life.

"The inquest will examine the events surrounding Mr. Freeman's death," stated a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Solicitor General in a media release. "The jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing further deaths."

No other information about the date or location of the inquest was included in the release, which said more details would be provided when they become available.

The decision from  Dr. Karen Schiff, supervising coroner for the West Region, was welcomed by Devon's grandmother Pamela Freeman and the Chippewas of Georgina Island.

New of the inquest comes after Freeman and the First Nation asked the coroner to examine what happened to her grandson "to better understand the gaps, oversights and failures that led to Devon's death, and to try and ensure that no other child in care suffers the same fate," the release from Clarke Family and Child Law and Stockwoods LLP read.

The release adds that at the time of his death, the teen was in the care of the Children's Aid Society of Hamilton and that he was last seen alive at the group home on Oct. 6.

It wasn't until seven months later that his body was found "alone and exposed to the elements."

Devon had tried to take his own life in the past, according to his family, but they say he was not taken to a hospital, psychiatrist or family doctor. They say his grandmother, the First Nation and police also weren't notified.

Based on that lack of information, the family believes police approached the situation as if Devon was "simply a 'runaway' and barely searched for him," states the release.

"I need better answers as to how what happened to Devon could have happened," Freeman said. "But even more than that, I hope that having an inquest look closely at how the system failed Devon will help to bring about changes so that this never happens again."

Shannon Crate, band representative for the First Nation said added that holding an inquest will ensure Devon's death is not in vain.

"By examining what went wrong in Devon's case, we can learn from his death to help prevent similar tragedies in the future."