HOLMBERG: Suicide by train, or something else?

Posted at 12:40 AM, Nov 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-12 16:29:53-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - There’s one thing for certain.

John Anthony Crone, 24, was dead when police and firefighters were called to the CSX railroad tracks by Walmsley Boulevard near Jefferson-Davis Highway on August 11 at about 3:30 a.m.

CSX locomotive video shows him lying on the track when the speeding freight train hit him. The preliminary cause of death on the Medical Examiner’s report – blunt force trauma to the head and body. But the final report isn’t in yet.

And Crone’s family wants to know what happened; why Anthony’s death never made local television news or the newspaper.

“Never made the news,” said his mom, Amy Boone. “If you Google it, nothing comes up.”

It’s like it never happened, she added. “I mean, I know more about stranger on the news than I know about my own son.”

The initial indication was Anthony had been suicidal – he had apparently sent texts to that effect. The Richmond Department sent out a brief notice in its crime and notable events weekend wrap-up report, saying there was a death investigation: “male struck by train. Foul play is not suspected.”

No media outlets picked up on it.

But there may be some question about whether he was alive when the train hit him.

“The detective that came and talked to me said . . . Ms. Boone, it’s not your fault, but it’s either one or two things: Your son was really depressed and he took his own life, or, what I’m thinking is, someone else did this to him and that I can assure you that he was dead before the train hit him.”

Anthony worked at a nightclub about two miles away and lived a 100 yards or so from where he died. He’d had trouble at work that night and was intoxicated and stormy, according to some accounts.

He’d had a hard time emotionally, his family said. But lately things had been better, said his sister, Heather Crone. “He seemed actually genuinely happy, that he wanted to come around family . . . ”

“Anthony was quiet, he didn’t ever kind of fit in to the regular crowd,” said close family friend Tammy Doughty. “But he was a really big-hearted kid.”

A Richmond police spokesman tells me investigators say there wasn’t any foul play at all. They’re waiting for the toxicology reports to come in and for the final Medical Examiner’s conclusion. Until then, it’s an open death investigation.

Amy Boone said she believes someone murdered her son and put his body on the tracks to cover it up.

Anthony’s mom and sister said they’re both aware that relatives of those who commit suicide often have a hard time dealing with it, sometimes looking for something else to explain the death.

But Amy Boone says they’ve heard too many conflicting stories – there are just too many unanswered questions.

“A lot of stories aren’t adding up,” Amy Boone said. “People we’ve talked to that saw him that night, and saw him again and their stories change . . .  Something’s not right with it.”

Each year about 35,000 people commit suicide in the  United States. Suicides involving trains are not always properly reported, and it’s only recently that the problem is coming into focus. Recent numbers indicate 300 to 400 suicides by train in the U.S. each  year –  a little more than 1 percent (roughly one a day).

“Amy is not in denial,” said friend, Tammy Doughty. “She just wants answers. If he committed suicide, show it.”

“If anyone knows anything,” sister Heather said in a tearful plea, “please let us know because we don’t know what happened, and we miss him.” She asked anyone who saw anything that night to call CrimeStoppers or the Richmond police detective division (646-6741). “Maybe he did take his own life, but we don’t actually know.”