Missing Canadian teen's family seeks answers through records request
Canadian, Texas —
Details have been few in the case of a missing Canadian teenager. Thomas Brown went missing 14 months ago on Thanksgiving 2016. Now his family's fight for answers may be leading to another dead end.
In October, Thomas Brown’s family filed a public records request with the Hemphill County Sheriff for information about the case. The request was sent to the attorney general for a decision about what could be released. The attorney general ruled the family could have the documents requested, but now the county is appealing that decision in a lawsuit, asking the attorney general to reconsider. Thomas' mom, Penny Meek, said she is not seeking sensitive information.
"I can't think there was really anything that would compromise the case,” said Meek.
Hemphill County Sheriff Nathan Lewis disagrees. He said the case is open and any information released could interfere with the investigation. He gave ABC 7 this statement:
“The Sheriff's Office foremost concern is maintaining the integrity of the case. We do understand the desire for knowledge and insight concerning this case, however; dissemination of certain facts and documents would only serve to impede the ongoing investigation and possible prosecution in the future.”
Meek’s requests include a log of volunteers that participated in searches, dates the Department of Public Service, the Texas Rangers and the FBI became involved in the investigation, any press releases about Thomas' case, names of deputies assigned to the case, disciplinary reports of personnel, the number of photographs and recordings made plus, most importantly, the classification of the case. She wants to know whether or not it is a criminal investigation.
"I know more about the Las Vegas shooter or the church shooter than I do my own son's case,” said Meek. “That is kind of frustrating because I am the mom."
She said the information would reveal what she most wants to know: If the investigation is progressing.
"It would be nice to have some assurances that they were getting leads or we're following up on things," said Meek.
The Hemphill County Attorney Kyle Miller said releasing any information could jeopardize justice. In a statement to ABC 7 he said:
"The entirety of the file contains information that, if made public, could compromise a criminal prosecution should one prove warranted. We have asked the Attorney General's Office for an opinion as to what, if anything, can be released to the public and what should remain confidential to ensure justice is served. This is simply the next step in the required process with the Attorney General's Office."
Thomas' mom said the lawsuit is another delay in getting the answers she wants.
"It's pretty disheartening and disappointing because at this point I just feel like we are playing political games and my son's life isn't a game,” said Meek.
There is no time table on when the attorney general will make a decision about if the documents will be released.