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Blackfoot man’s manner of death unchanged following exhumation, autopsy

Kye Stephenson | Courtesy Stephenson family
BLACKFOOT — The Bingham County Coroner’s Office will not change the ruling of suicide as the manner by which a Blackfoot man died in 2021.
Coroner Jimmy Roberts approved the exhumation and autopsy of Kye Stephenson, who died on Aug. 6, 2021. On April 7, Forensic Pathologist Christina Di Loreto conducted that autopsy and, due in part to decomposition of the body, did not find sufficient justification for changing the initial ruling in the manner of Stephenson’s death.
Following the autopsy, Di Loreto confirmed the cause of death as a single gunshot wound to the head but left manner of death to be determined by Roberts.
In an email to EastIdahoNews.com, Roberts said that the official ruling would remain suicide.
“If more information or compelling evidence becomes available at a future date, our office would, of course, be willing to review the case again at that time,” he added.
Stephenson’s family, however, believes that enough was learned during the autopsy, performed nearly two years after his death, to warrant the asking of additional questions.
RELATED | After his death was ruled a suicide, a Blackfoot man’s family is left with more questions than answers
Stephenson was found unresponsive in his driveway around 2 a.m. by his wife, Alishia Stephenson. She called Blackfoot police, who arrived at the home ahead of the Bingham County Coroner’s Office.
Less than one hour after their arrival, the police and coroner were clearing the scene, having determined the death a suicide and removing Stephenson’s body.
Stephenson’s parents, Stacey and Buff Stephenson, immediately raised questions regarding their son’s death.
Initial reports indicated the gunshot wound entered the right side of Stephenson’s head — but the family asserted that Stephenson was left-handed and only fired his guns with his left hand. There are also questions about the positioning of Stephenson’s body, the lack of signs that the gun was fired at in close contact to Stephenson’s head and the claim that the bullet that killed Stephenson had exited his head and lodged in the roof of his home but was not retrieved.
Reports filed by both the officers and deputy coroner at the scene stated Stephenson was taking anti-depressants and had just learned of a custody suit filed on behalf of a former partner over his then-12-year-old son. There were also statements provided to police that Stephenson mixed a large amount of alcohol with his anti-depressant medication the night he died.
The Stephenson family’s questions regarding motive remain unanswered.
However, a toxicology report attached to the autopsy, provided to EastIdahoNews.com by the family, shows the only chemicals found in Stephenson’s body were caffeine and methanol — which may have been introduced into the system during embalming.
Stephenson’s sister, Shayley Stephenson, who spent the evening prior to his death with her brother, is adamant Stephenson was not battling with depression over a possible custody battle.
“That’s untrue — it has been proven to be untrue,” Shayley said.
The family maintains that Stephenson signed over custodial rights to the child more than a decade ago. His focus, the Stephensons say, was entirely devoted to the two children he had with his wife.
EastIdahoNews.com made several attempts to get in contact with Alishia, but she did not return calls, emails or text messages.
The autopsy did answer one huge question — on which side of the head the bullet entered.
Di Loreto notes the bullet entered Stephenson’s head through the left frontotemporal scalp. It then exited the right temporoparietal scalp, traveling at a “left-to-right, upward and front-to-back” direction.
This would suggest the bullet that killed Stephenson may in fact be the one police identified in the roof of the home — based on direction of travel.
Upon reading the report, Stacey again asked Blackfoot police why the bullet has not been retrieved.
Speaking with EastIdahoNews.com, she became emotional, struggling to verbalize her thoughts. She asked her daughter, Shayley, to speak on her behalf, but, through tears, did say:
“It’s just another day of work for them, but it’s a lifetime for our family.”
Also regarding the bullet’s entry, the autopsy report does not indicate the markings common in contact or close-to-contact gunshot wound.
“No definitive marginal abrasion or soot is appreciated,” the reports reads. “There is no stippling of the surrounding skin.”
Stacey understands that, due to the natural decomposition, it was not possible to get certain answers through autopsy. But she insists there are still enough questions to warrant further investigations.
She has asked the Blackfoot Police Department to conduct formal interviews, but says they claim to be confident in the results they have filed.
Even if the answers continue to go against her beliefs of what actually happened that night two years ago, she believes those questions need to be asked.
Blackfoot Police Capt. Wes Wheatley told EastIdahoNews.com the department would re-open its investigation should any information or evidence be presented that would suggest something other than suicide.
“I will guarantee that we will follow up, in a timely fashion, any lead that (comes) from this,” he said.
The post Blackfoot man’s manner of death unchanged following exhumation, autopsy appeared first on East Idaho News.
Source: eastidahonews.com

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