FOX UNDERCOVER - Unanswered questions about a teenager found dead in a small Massachusetts town at the home of the police chief's sister are prompting the youth's anguished parents to question the integrity of the investigation.
The mother of 18-year-old John Finacom made the grim discovery when she went to pick him up at the house in Sutton where he had stayed overnight with friends. It was August 31, 2011. When no one answered the door, she went inside.
"I saw John lying on the floor. Sleeping, so I thought. And I'm like, ‘Hey John, come on, I'm here.' And he didn't move. And I realized he was dead," Mary Finacom told FOX Undercover.
John's friend, Matthew Sargent, who is the police chief's nephew, and Sargent's girlfriend were in the bed in the same room.
"And I said, ‘Matt, John's dead!' And Matt popped out of bed and he's like, ‘What?' And he was shocked, and I said, ‘Call 911!'" Finacom said.
The autopsy report shows he died from a deadly combination of drugs and alcohol.
"You just feel sick to your stomach. And you wish it was a dream, that it can't be real. He can't really be gone. And then you're just kind of like in shock, too," Finacom said.
A year and a half later, the shock is gone, but not the pain or the anger over unanswered questions, questions like who supplied John with the alcohol. They wonder if authorities are ignoring the death investigation.
"We need the public's help to try to get answers to the questions so we can have closure. We can't have closure if nobody answers our questions," said Tom Finacom.
"I want to know who was in that house that night. I want to know if the parents were home. I want to know where the alcohol came from," he said.
Reports written by Sutton and State Police provide some answers.
They indicate John arrived between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. that night and that he, Matt and Matt's girlfriend had stayed up until approximately 1 a.m., drinking vodka and smoking marijuana.
A police report also notes "there was a budding male marijuana plant located in this bedroom and a female marijuana plant was located in the kitchen."
An empty pill bottle without a label was found by John's feet. The cause of death was ruled acute drug and alcohol intoxication.
The state police investigator requested the case be closed, but the Finacoms still have questions.
There is no mention in either police report given to the Finacoms about the homeowners being interviewed or what they had to say.
Under state law, homeowners can face up to a year in prison if they give alcohol to minors or allow it to be consumed by them on their property.
"If it happened at my house and we had a pot plant in the kitchen and one in the bedroom… I think that we would be held accountable," said Mary Finacom.
"I'd probably be in jail right now….So would my son," said Tom Finacom.
Adding to their suspicions is that one of the homeowners, Pamela Sargent, is the brother of Sutton police Chief Dennis Towle.
Mary Finacom remembers seeing Towle responding to the Sargent's house that day, yelling and swearing at his nephew.
"At the time I didn't know who he was. Now I know that it was the police chief, Dennis Towle. And that he is Matt's uncle. So it all made sense why he was being unprofessional," she said.
Chief Towle told FOX Undercover he was in fact yelling and swearing at his nephew.
"I actually wasn't very happy with what I saw there. And I had some interaction with my nephew," Towle said.
"It was advised to me by my lieutenant, ‘Hey look, Chief, we have a policy in the department that if it's a family member or somebody that's from your family, that there's a case involved with, then you probably shouldn't be here.' And I agreed and said, ‘You're absolutely right, lieutenant,' and left the scene."
"Did you interfere in this investigation?" asked FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet.
"Absolutely, unequivocally, no way. Never made a phone call," Towle said.
Towle says he never spoke to his sister about what happened.
"Were the parents home?" Beaudet asked him.
"I don't know that," Towle replied.
"Where did they get the alcohol?" Beaudet asked.
"We don't know that," Towle replied.
"Why don't you know the answers to those questions?" Beaudet asked.
"I don't know the answers simply because I didn't ask," Towle said. "That's not our function. That's not a function of a police department when they show up at a scene and there's been an unattended death."
It is the function of the Massachusetts State Police, who passed on their findings to Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early's office.
But the DA's office, which decides whether to press criminal charges, could not answer those questions either, according to Michael Cashman, an attorney representing the Finacoms.
"Do you think someone should be charged in this case?" Beaudet asked him.
"I don't really know. I guess that's the problem. The investigation that I've seen doesn't give us enough information to make that determination. So I don't know if anybody should be charged," Cashman said.
Cashman requested a judicial inquest, where a judge would investigate the case. The DA's office responded, writing the case would be referred to another DA's office.
That was a year ago, and the family hasn't heard anything from the DA's office since then.
"This isn't a dead dog that got found on the side of the road. This matter deserves a complete investigation. And that was not done," said Tom Finacom.
The Worcester DA's office turned down FOX Undercover's request for an on camera interview, but it appears the DA's office was offended by the suggestion of a judicial inquest.
A spokesman tells FOX Undercover that "Senior First Assistant Dan Bennett was planning to get the answers to the questions asked by the family attorney when he was told by the family attorney that he could not be fair."
The spokesman also says the prosecutor was unaware the death happened in the police chief's sister's house and that another DA's office and the state Attorney General's office have declined to look at the case.
"We do not anticipate asking another DA's office to review this matter," the DA's statement says.
FOX Undercover did speak with the homeowners, Ted and Pam Sargent, who say they were interviewed by police.
They say they were home that night and did not provide the alcohol to the teenagers or even know they were drinking or doing drugs.
As for the marijuana plants found in the bedroom and kitchen, they say they don't know where they came from and questioned whether John Finacom brought them with him to the house that night. It's a claim John's parents call ridiculous.
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