published Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

2 teens die in Catoosa County

The grandmother of an 18-year-old teen who is suspected of drowning while trying to save a friend wants more answers on how her grandson died.

Authorities say Damond Beck was found Sunday in Chickamauga Creek after he tried to save a friend and likely drowned.

But Norma Barton, who raised her grandson since he was young, said Beck couldn't swim and he was found with his boots on. And she wonders why he would have jumped in the water.

"There's a whole lot of unanswered questions for my family," she said "It's not going to bring him back, but there's a part of me that needs to know."

The creek tucked behind Caroll Drive near Costco in Catoosa County, Ga., wasn't swift on Saturday evening when a woman -- whose name has been withheld -- was with Beck and another man, said Robin Hill spokeswoman for Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

The woman told police she was walking across a small rock dam when she slipped and fell in, Hill said. Police were told both men were already in the water, when the other man helped the woman, but when they turned around Beck was gone, Hill said.

Rescue crews found Beck 75 feet downstream the next day. But until test results come back, the cause of death is unknown, she said.

Beck was the second teenager killed this past weekend in Catoosa County.

Eighteen-year-old Michael Henry was found dead on the floor of a basement bathroom at a Ringgold house Saturday afternoon, an incident report states. Henry was at a friend's parent's house when he was found.

Authorities suspected drug overdose as the cause of death, the report states. But no one in the sheriff's office was available Monday afternoon to comment on the death.

Henry, a recent graduate of Ringgold High School, was called a sweet young man by Principal Sharon Vaughn.

Meanwhile, Beck had recently completed his GED after he dropped out of middle school years ago, his grandmother said.

But Beck had left his Rossville home with his grandparents to try and form a relationship with his father who lived in the area where Beck drowned, Barton said. But she didn't want him to go.

Barton said she has never met the people Beck was with when he drowned, but believes he had been staying with them.

"We were afraid he was going to get hurt," she said. "But I wasn't excepting him to die."

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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