Family seeks answers in cold case of a 14-year-old boy

By KENNEDY WILLIAMS, Reporter

COLUMBIA, Missouri (NEWS3) – The family and friends of a boy found dead in Columbia, Missouri are still fighting for justice after his death more than 30 years later. 

Christian Lewis is still searching for answers into how his brother, Andre Roland, 14, of Columbia, Missouri was found dead in a wooded area on March 24, 1989. 

According to articles printed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Columbia Daily Tribune, the county medical examiner ruled Roland’s death a suicide, saying no foul play was involved. However, Roland’s death certificate reports his death as undetermined, meaning suicide may not have been a factor. 

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that some community members felt a thorough investigation was not completed and Roland did not show signs of wanting to take his life. 

In the afternoon of March 24, 1989, Lewis said he and Roland came home and planned to play basketball at a court down the street. Fifteen minutes later Roland went to the court. Roland said he would take his time getting there to wait for Lewis, and then Lewis left shortly after. 

“So as I’m walking, I get to a point where I can see the basketball goal, but I can already see that my brother’s not there,” Lewis said.

At 5:30 that night, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune, a neighbor found Roland hanging with his toes touching the ground and his knees suspended 4 inches in the air. However, Lewis said a family friend who worked for the fire department offered to go identify Roland’s body and said Roland was found in a kneeling position as if he was praying. The newspaper reported that authorities did not allow Roland’s mother, Norma Roland, to identify her son’s body until the body was removed from where it was found. 

The Columbia Daily Tribune reported at the time that Boone County Sheriff Ted Boehm said he was waiting for the results of tests on the belt used in the hanging, the clothes Roland was wearing and blood found on his clothes. 

“No one could ever explain to my mom or show my mom where the blood came from,” Lewis said. 

Capt. Brian Leer of the Boone County Sheriff’s Office was not working in the department at the time of Roland’s death, but he said that there are no further police reports available on the case at this time. 

Today, Andre Roland’s friends and family, in their words, continue to fight for justice. 

The organizer of the Andre Roland movement, NaTasha Lewis, said the outpouring of support has been amazing. 

“People just started hitting us up when they would see our shirts, like ‘Hey I want one’, and to us, that was our way to get Andre’s face out,” Lewis said. 

The family wants to continue to keep Roland’s name alive, and by doing that, they are releasing a documentary about Andre Roland’s life in May 2021.