tampabay.com

Family still awaits closure in son's boot camp death

It's been nine months since a teen beaten by boot camp guards died, but still no charges.

By ABBIE VANSICKLE
Published September 29, 2006


TAMPA - Martin Lee Anderson died nearly nine months ago, collapsing after guards roughed him up at a Panama City boot camp.

Since then, the 14-year-old's family has waited for closure, for an answer about who is responsible.

Their wait won't be over for at least six more weeks. That's according to the family's attorney, Ben Crump of Tallahassee, who says prosecutors gave him the discouraging news last week.

"The longer it takes, everybody loses respect in the system. ... It's taking far too long," Crump said.

Martin's family was so upset by the delay that members tried to see Gov. Jeb Bush on Wednesday.

They were turned away; the staff said Bush's schedule was already full.

"We feel it should be finished before the election," Crump said.

Anthony DeLuise, a Bush spokesman, said the governor shares the family's concerns.

Martin collapsed at the boot camp, a facility in Bay County for troubled teens, on Jan. 5. He died the next day at a Pensacola hospital.

A camp videotape showed nearly a dozen boot camp guards surrounding the boy, striking his limp body and pushing ammonia capsules in his nose. The tape outraged legislators and the governor.

After questions were raised about autopsy results, the governor assigned the investigation to Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober.

A second autopsy concluded Martin died of suffocation, contradicting a Bay County medical examiner's finding that he died from complications of sickle cell trait.

In a prepared statement Wednesday, Ober said he understood and sympathized with the family.

"My office has made significant progress during the past several months of our investigation," he said. "I assure the family and the public that my office is working diligently as we continue to gather important evidence in this case."

But Ober didn't give any public hint as to when he would wrap up the case.

Crump said the months of uncertainty are taking a toll. Martin's mother is in counseling, he said. "They're struggling," he said.

State legislators Gus Barreiro and Frederica Wilson, involved in the case from the start, both also expressed frustration with the pace of the investigation.

"I am really disturbed by the length of time it has taken to make arrests," said Wilson, a senator from Miami.