Birthday prank leads to teen’s death

By Julie Carr Smyth The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A teenager who died at an Ohio church camp last spring was the victim of an asphyxiation prank that was little better than a lynching, alleged lawyers for the boy’s mother who have filed a civil rights claim.

James McCoy III, a member of Church of the Messiah in Westerville, was found hanging from a tree last April 22 in a remote area of Camp Cotubic, a Christian camp east of Bellefontaine where his youth group was on retreat. It was his 18th birthday.

News reports at the time said authorities were told McCoy had wandered off from the group and that his friends were confused and shocked by his death. A preliminary coroner’s report called it a suicide.

But a lawsuit filed Monday in Franklin County Common Pleas Court alleges the boy died as a result of his friends playing a choking game on him as a birthday prank.

The lawsuit, seeking $25,000 in damages, claims four unidentified youths gave false statements to authorities after the incident, leading officials to believe McCoy had been depressed and suicidal, and later created false writings.