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Teen had argument with group home resident a day before disappearing: inquest

Author of the article:

The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press

Paola Loriggio

A coroner’s inquest into the death of an Indigenous teen is hearing he had a heated argument with another resident at a Hamilton group home the day before he went missing.

Scott Shewfelt, a youth worker at the Lynwood Charlton Centre’s Flamborough location, says Devon Freeman was upset and crying on Oct. 6, 2017 because some of the other youth at the home had made “negative comments” about his late mother.

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He says there was an argument during which Freeman damaged one youth’s crutches as well as other items on the property.

Shewfelt says he went to talk to Freeman afterward, and the teen seemed to feel better by the end of the conversation. He says there was no indication Freeman wanted to leave the site.

Freeman, who was 16 at the time, went missing from the home on Oct. 7 and his body was found on the property more than six months later, in April 2018. An autopsy determined he died by hanging.

On Wednesday, jurors heard police weren’t told of Freeman’s history of suicidal thoughts or that he had attempted to end his life earlier that year.

The inquest also heard Freeman had been reported missing from the home dozens of times that year, and often wouldn’t return for days.

In his testimony Thursday, Shewfelt said Freeman leaving the property was a “common problem.”

“Normally it was because he was being held accountable for a comment or behaviour,” the youth worker said.

Usually, as soon as staff realized he had left, they would search the building and then the property, he said.

Someone would also usually try to follow Freeman to monitor his safety and encourage him to come back, but the teen would take steps to elude staff, including venturing onto private property, he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2022.