The family of a 17-year-old boy from Tumwater who died last year from complications due to intoxication were in court as a judge set bail for a 67-year-old woman charged with first-degree manslaughter after allegedly providing the alcohol that led to his death.
Cherokee Lincoln, 17, was found dead on the morning of Aug. 21, 2009, at Roxanne Johnson’s Israel Road apartment in Tumwater.
Lincoln died of “positional asphyxia secondary to acute ethanol intoxication,” according to Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock.
Lincoln’s mother, Minnie Shults, and his cousin, Kelley Maggard, said Monday they had no idea Lincoln was drinking at Johnson’s home when he died.
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They said they have never met Johnson and had no idea who she was until after Lincoln died.
They also said that Johnson did not attend Lincoln’s funeral, and she has never tried to contact them.
“I thought he was staying with a friend that was a block away,” Shults said.
Maggard said Lincoln “was a good kid, he just started hanging around with the wrong type of people.”
A toxicology exam revealed that at the time of Lincoln’s death, he had a blood alcohol level of 0.36 percent, more than four times the legal limit for driving.
Johnson has entered a not-guilty plea to one count of first-degree manslaughter in connection with Lincoln’s death. Johnson was released from the Thurston County Jail early Tuesday morning after posting $5,000 bail. Johnson is charged based on her own admission that she provided the alcohol to Lincoln and other teens in her home the night of Lincoln’s death, court papers state.
Johnson admitted to providing the group with alcohol, and stated that she “knew they would get alcohol from somewhere and she would rather have them drinking where she could keep an eye on them.”
Shults and Maggard said Monday that they hope Lincoln’s death serves as an example to others of the hazards of allowing teens to drink alcohol.
“I don’t want somebody else to have to go through this,” Shults said.
Added Maggard, “we just want to get the message out to all the other teenagers, just watch out for each other. You’re not invincible.”
According to court papers, Johnson told police after Lincoln’s death that earlier that night, Lincoln appeared to be in a “drunken stupor” while he and a group of teens were at the apartment drinking liquor and playing cards.
Someone escorted Lincoln to a bedroom, and according to Johnson, “she checked on Lincoln at 3 a.m. where (she) found him on the floor,” court papers state. “She covered him with a blanket and went to bed.”
The card players told police that they checked on Lincoln at 3:30 a.m., “and he was reportedly fine, sleeping and breathing, although he had slid off the mattress and was on the floor,” court papers state.
When medics arrived at the apartment, Lincoln was face-down on the carpet, court papers state. It appeared to the medics that Lincoln “had suffocated from the position he was in or from aspirating vomit ... alcohol was possibly a factor,” according to court papers.
In addition to Lincoln, a 15-year-old, an 18-year-old and a 23-year-old were drinking at the apartment that night, court papers state.
Last week, Tumwater Police Detective Jen Kolb described Johnson’s apartment as a “flophouse for juveniles.”
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465