Murder or suicide? Troubling clues in the death of Christian Andreacchio

Christian Andreacchio was a 21-year-old man on track to being one of the youngest towboat captains on the Mississippi River when he died of a single gunshot to the head. His parents say he was murdered, but law enforcement says it was suicide.

Andreaccchio’s live-in girlfriend Whitley Goodman and friend Dylan Swearingen say they discovered him in the bathroom of his apartment in Meridian, Mississippi on February 26, 2014.

Police quickly ruled out foul play, and the death was ruled a suicide despite suspicious clues: there was little blood spatter and there were no fingerprints found on the gun.

“I believe 100% he was murdered,” Andreacchio’s mother, Rae, tells “48 Hours” correspondent Peter Van Sant.

Determined to find out what happened to Christian, the Andreacchios hired a team of investigators and experts to look at the evidence. They came up with a different conclusion: murder.

“Did your son, Dylan, shoot Christian?” Van Sant asks Swearingen’s mother Pam. “Absolutely not. On a very bad day, my son lost his best friend,” she said.

Goodman’s mother Christie Chatterton says: “I just want them to know that she did not kill him.”

A grand jury heard the case in 2017 and chose not to indict Goodman and Swearingen in Andreacchio’s death. But “48 Hours” has learned jurors did not hear all of the evidence.

FEBRUARY 26, 2014

Rae Andreacchio: I can’t believe this is happening to our family — I think everybody was just kind of in shock. … This is something, you know, that happens to other people.  It doesn’t happen to you.

From their Lakeside home just outside Meridian, Mississippi, Rae and Todd Andreacchio are haunted by the death of their 21-year-old son, Christian, in 2014.

Todd Andreacchio: A lot of days I look out there and, you know, expect to see him out there with the jet ski floating about, but you know, every day you get caught with memories.

Christian Andreacchio
“He was on his way to being a really good man, and I think he would have made a good father, a good husband,” Todd Andreacchio said of his son Christian.

Rae Andreacchio


Christian grew up on Dalewood Shore Lake, where he fell in love with the water, and dreamed of becoming a towboat captain on the Mississippi River.

Todd Andreacchio: He was on his way to being a really good man, and I think he would have made a good father, a good husband.

Peter Van Sant: It’s tough to talk about this, isn’t it?

Todd Andreacchio: Yep. Yep. I miss him every day [crying].

Peter Van Sant: Have either of you honestly been able to have any peace in your life during all of this, since your son’s death?

Rae Andreacchio: No.

Todd Andreacchio: No.  We’ve kind of been at war since it started.

Peter Van Sant: And you’re at war now.

Todd Andreacchio: Yes sir.

Peter Van Sant: This isn’t over?

Todd Andreacchio: No.  Not by a long shot.

For now, there are two unanswered questions at the heart of this case: Why would a young man with so much to live for take his own life? Or perhaps more importantly, did someone take Christians life from him?

Peter Van Sant:  Your son’s death—suicide or homicide?

Todd Andreacchio: Homicide.

Rae Andreacchio: It’s definitely a homicide.

But Lauderdale County District Attorney Kassie Coleman, who took over the case in 2018, says the evidence points in another direction.

Kassie Coleman: Well, at this point, there has been further investigation by multiple agencies … that have determined it to be a suicide.

At issue are the events of February 26, 2014.

Rae Andreacchio: I had talked to Christian that morning. He was on the boat. You know, everything was fine.

Christian was a few days into what’s called a “hitch”—a 30-day work trip on the Mississippi River where he was a first mate on a towboat.  Rae called him about getting tickets for a Rihanna concert.

Rae Andreacchio: And he said, “well, let me check the date to see” … he said, “I gotta go. … I’ll call you back later. Love ya”. Got off the phone.

Just hours later, they were told that Christian was found dead in his apartment, which he shared with his girlfriend Whitley Goodman.

Todd Andreacchio: And I was like, “no.  I don’t think so. Christian’s at work. He’s not even – he’s not even in town.”

A Meridian Police detective broke the horrible news to them in person.

Rae Andreacchio: And he said, well, “this is his driver’s license.” And … when we saw his driver’s license, it became a little bit more real.

But suicide? Nothing made sense to Rae and Todd.

Todd Andreacchio: He’s never had any … kind of mental problems, any kind of depression.

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Whitley Goodman and Christian Andreacchio

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Professionally, at the age of 21, Christian’s life couldn’t have been better. And on the personal side, he adored Whitley, who had dropped out of high school and wanted to become a hair and makeup artist.

Christie Chatterton:  They made each other happy.  He was crazy about her. 

Christie Chatterton is Whitley’s mother.

Christie Chatterton: She’s very funny, very creative, and adventurous.

Peter Van Sant: She’s a young woman that Christian Andreacchio fell in love with.

Christie Chatterton: She is.

Whitley even moved in with the Andreacchios.  But after a few weeks, Rae says Whitley became jealous, defacing a picture of Christian and his ex-girlfriend. 

Rae Andreacchio: I figure that she stabbed the faces out and then she brought the picture to me and gave it back to me.

Peter Van Sant: What did you think Todd?

Todd Andreacchio: I thought she was a nut.

The Andreacchios asked Whitley to move out.

Rae Andreacchio: And so, you know, his kind of attitude was, well, if she can’t be here, then I can’t be here.

Christian and Whitley moved into an apartment, which Christian paid for.

Rae Andreacchio: I felt … that she was using him for money. … He was providing her with a place to stay, with a car … clothes, makeup, whatever.”

Whitley’s mom saw problems, too. Especially when Christian was on the towboat.

Christie Chatterton: She would have to stay on the phone with him at night … so he can keep up with where she was and what she was doing.

Peter Van Sant: You mean, for like an hour after an hour …

Christie Chatterton:  Like hours and hours and hours. … Every night … I didn’t know how unhealthy the relationship had become.

Rae and Todd Andreacchio
Meridian police said Christian Andreacchio’s death was a suicide. But Rae and Todd Andreacchio, believe their son was murdered.

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But none of this seemed to add up to suicide for the Andreacchios.

Todd Andreacchio: So, for him to take his life over somebody he’d been dating for six months? I don’t think so. No.

On the night of Christian’s death, Rae needed answers. She called her brother, Chris Thompson, and asked that he drive over to the Meridian Police Department. That’s where Christian’s friend, Dylan Swearingen — who made that 911 call — was being questioned along with Whitley.

Rae Andreacchio: And I told him to be sure … that Whitley didn’t have Christian’s phone.

At first Whitley denied having it, but eventually turned it over to police.

Chris Thompson: To me, that was a big red flag right off the bat.

Peter Van Sant: So, she had lied initially about not knowing where Christian’s phone was.

Rae Andreacchio: Right. … It’s … very suspicious because why would you do that?

Kassie Coleman: My personal opinion … is that she did not want that phone to get in the hands of law enforcement … because there were a lot of sexually oriented photographs and messages in that phone.

The Andreacchio’s were stunned to learn the investigation at the scene lasted only 45 minutes.

Peter Van Sant: And the job they did in this investigation, how would you describe it?

Todd Andreacchio: Piss poor. 

But that same investigation did turn up something that the Andreacchios hoped would be a game changer.

Peter Van Sant: Both Dylan and Whitley are checked for gunshot residue — G.S.R. What do they find?

Todd Andreacchio: Gunshot residue.

Peter Van Sant: On both their hands?

Todd Andreacchio: Both their hands.

Peter Van Sant: And what does that suggest to you?

Todd Andreacchio: They were in the room when the gun was fired.

WHAT HAPPENED TO CHRISTIAN?

Rae Andreacchio: Nobody wants to think that their child was at a point in their life where they took their own life. I mean, that’s just human nature. … But we had someone in the community … who had killed himself. … And that really bothered Christian. … And he several times told me, you know, “mom, if anybody ever says I killed myself, you come looking because I wouldn’t do that.”

For Christian’s family, that horrible night in 2014 started a search for answers that continues to this day. 

Rae Andreacchio: We took the time to have his funeral. And then the very next week, we started going to the police department.

From the beginning, the Andreacchios had questions about that 911 call placed by Christian’s friend Dylan Swearingen around 4:45 p.m.

They wonder, is this a genuine call?  Or an elaborate act?

OPERATOR:  911, Where’s your emergency? 

DYLAN SWEARINGEN:  Ma’am, we’ve had a suicide.”

OPERATOR:  “You had a suicide?”  

DYLAN SWEARINGEN : Yes, ma’am.

OPERATOR:  Who is it sir?

DYLAN SWEARINGEN: Christian Andreacchio.

[Whitley is heard wailing in the background]

OPERATOR: OK, just try not to touch anything, OK?

DYLAN SWEARINGEN:  Whitley! Whitley!

OPERATOR: Is she up with him?

DYLAN SWEARINGEN: Come down here. They don’t want you to touch anything. Come on. [crying in background].

OPERATOR:  Just trying, if – if it —

DYLAN SWEARINGEN:  Come here, Whitley.  Come here ...

Todd Andreacchio: Just sounds fake to me.

DYLAN SWEARINGEN:  Please get somebody up here. …I think he shot himself.

Rae Andreacchio: He’s already … put it out there in people’s mind that it’s a suicide … so, you know, now that’s how it’s going to be looked at.

Peter Van Sant:  Did your son, Dylan, shoot Christian?

Pam Swearingen | Dylan’s mother:  Absolutely not.

Pam Swearingen: On a very bad day, my son lost his best friend.

Dylan and Whitley declined to grant us an interview, but their mothers agreed to speak for the first time to “48 Hours.” While they wouldn’t discuss specifics of the case, they’re adamant their children did not commit any crime. 

Christie Chatterton and Pam Swearingen
Christie Chatterton, left, and Pam Swearingen are adamant their children did not commit any crime.

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Christie Chatterton | Whitley’s mother:  It was just so shocking. And you know what she saw, like, she can never unsee it.

Christie Chatterton: I just want them to know that she did not kill him. 

That night, Christie rushed down to the police station, where Whitley had just been questioned.

Christie Chatterton:  I just hugged her and comforted her.

Peter Van Sant: Was she in tears?

Christie Chatterton: She was hysterical. 

Peter Van Sant: Christian’s death— suicide or homicide?

Christie Chatterton: One hundred percent … it’s suicide.

Investigators found Christian’s body in the upstairs bathroom, leaning facedown over a blood-filled tub, with that gunshot wound to the right side of his head.  Four months after Christian’s death, Benny Dubose became Meridian’s new chief of police and took on the case.   

Benny Dubose: A lot of the stuff didn’t make sense.

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When authorities tested Christian’s gun they found no fingerprints. Former Meridian Police Chief Benny Dubose inherited the case when he became the new chief. He believes prints should have been on the gun, and the fact that there were none indicated it had been wiped down.  

Meridian Police Dept.


Starting with Christian’s gun. 

Benny Dubose: When the gun was sent to the crime lab, they did not find any prints on the gun at all.  … Christian’s prints should have been on the gun. … The gun was cleaned — wiped down.

He says the bathroom was surprisingly clean, too.

Benny Dubose: There should have been some blood splatter [sic] on this side and on this side [gestures to both sides of his head] … there was no blood splatter [sic]. 

Peter Van Sant:  Suggesting what?

Benny Dubose: That … number 1, the crime scene had been tampered with. Probably, most likely the blood splatter had been cleaned.

Dubose says officers bungled the investigation 

Andreacchio bathrooom
Investigators found Christian’s body in the upstairs bathroom, leaning face-down over a blood-filled tub. Christian had a single gunshot wound to the right side of his head. Former Police Chief Benny Dubose says the bathroom was surprisingly clean. He believes the scene had been tampered with and that blood spatter had been cleaned. 

Meridian Police Dept.


Benny Dubose: Taking pictures of the crime scene with a doggone cell phone? … They all were issued cameras. … And the pictures, needless to say, were terrible.”  

District Attorney Kassie Coleman agrees.  She inherited the case in 2018.

Peter Van Sant: Would you use the word incompetent?

Kassie Coleman: Yes … Without a doubt, it lacked competence. It lacked thoroughness.

Dylan and Whitley were not even photographed.

Kassie Coleman: There’s been a lot of questions about was there any blood on either one of them? The reality is, we don’t know.

Rae Andreacchio: The timeline that Dylan gives of the events don’t really add up.

Dylan told police Christian had called him around 2 a.m. that morning, urgently asking for a ride home from St. Rose, Louisiana. Apparently, Christian had found out Whitley was cheating on him.

Rae Andreacchio: He was coming home to … kick her out of the apartment.

Peter Van Sant: You believe he was going back to break up with her?

Todd Andreacchio: Yes, sir.

Dylan says he picked up Christian and they drove back to the apartment.  Almost immediately, Christian and Whitley began arguing when, Dylan says, Christian suddenly took out a gun and put it to his own head.

Benny Dubose: According to the report, Christian threatened to shoot himself. … telling Whitley to tell him that she loved him. … Dylan ended up saying that he took the weapon away from Christian … unloaded it and hid it.

But Whitley told detectives a different story.

Rae Andreacchio:  When Whitley is asked … has Christian ever appeared suicidal … she says, “no, I don’t think so.”

Rae Andreacchio: There was inconsistencies throughout her stories.

According to police reports, Whitley told responders and friends that she discovered Christian’s body. But she told a detective at the station that it was Dylan who found him.

Benny Dubose: She claimed to be asleep on the sofa … and a .45 caliber handgun is discharged, and she slept through it.

Peter Van Sant: Is that believable?

Benny Dubose: No. No, not at all.

Peter Van Sant: You know your guns. How loud is a .45?

Benny Dubose: That should have been heard two to three apartments over.

Dylan Swearingen and Whitley Goodman
Dylan Swearingen and Whitley Goodman

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And remember, gunshot residue was present on both Dylan’s and Whitley’s hands.  While police have not publicly commented about the GSR on Dylan’s hands, Whitley told investigators she has an innocent explanation.

Rae Andreacchio: Her response was, well, I’m going to have it on my hands because I was shooting guns the night before.

She said she’d been target practicing with friends, a claim one of those friends said was true, but another said was false.  But the Andreacchios are questioning everything, including something odd Dylan did earlier that day.  

Peter Van Sant: What do we see in this picture?

Rae Andreacchio: Dylan Swearingen at the credit union.

Peter Van Sant:  Who has an account at that bank?

Rae Andreacchio: Christian.

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About 4 hours before Dylan called 911, he was photographed at a credit union where Christian had an account. Dylan told investigators that Christian had given him his debit card with a startling request. He says Christian told him to withdraw all of his money because he wanted to give it to him. But there was one problem: Dylan didn’t have Christian’s PIN number, so he left empty-handed.  

Meridian Police Dept.


These photos were taken at 12:29 p.m. – around 4 hours before Dylan called 911. Dylan told investigators that Christian had given him his debit card with a startling request.

Rae Andreacchio: He says … that Christian told him to withdraw all of his money — that he was giving him his money.

But there was one little problem: Dylan didn’t have Christian’s pin number.  So, he left empty-handed. 

Peter Van Sant: Is that suspicious to you?

Benny Dubose: Absolutely.

Rae Andreacchio: He arrives back. … He said that … they watched a couple of movies.

Dylan said Christian had calmed down, so he gave him his gun back. He says Whitley settled in for a nap. Dylan says he left for another errand and when he returned …

OPERATOR: 911, where’s your emergency?

DYLAN SWEARINGEN:  Ma’am, we’ve had a suicide.

Peter Van Sant: Knowing what you know about this case, if I asked you was this suicide or homicide, where are you leaning?

Benny Dubose: Neither.

Peter Van Sant: How do you mean?

Benny Dubose: I don’t think that Mr. Andreacchio killed himself on purpose. And I don’t think anybody else killed Mr. Andreacchio on purpose.

Dubose believes Christian may have once again held his gun to his own head — this time, upstairs in the bathroom.

Benny Dubose: I believe that … Whitley may have … reached for the gun and the gun discharged. … I don’t think there was a motive. I think it was just an accident.

The Andreacchios aren’t buying any of it. 

Peter Van Sant: Could it have been an accident?

Todd Andreacchio: I mean, anything’s possible, but I don’t believe it at all.

Rae Andreacchio: In this situation, everything points to murder … and then they — whoever — staged it to look like a suicide.

That night, the coroner ruled the death “undermined.”  After an autopsy, a forensic pathologist labeled it a suicide. And just like that, the Meridian Police Department closed the case.

Rae Andreacchio: And so, then we had to do this, start this investigation on our own.

So, they began hiring their own private investigators, eventually forming a small army of supporters and experts including a forensic pathologist named Dr. Jonathan Arden

Dr. Jonathan Arden:  It is my conclusion that the death of Christian Andreacchio was a homicide.

SEEKING ANSWERS

Todd Andreacchio: We’ve just been really let down by the police and law enforcement.

Todd Andreacchio: We had no idea what to do or where to start.

Rae and Todd Andreacchio began their search for justice by hiring their own team of investigators, including former Washington D.C. medical examiner, Dr. Jonathan Arden, who examined the case file.

Dr. Jonathan Arden: I’ve performed about 3,000 autopsies on my own. … From the beginning, my reaction was—something is wrong here.

Starting with where investigators found Christian’s handgun. It was pressed between his left thigh and the front of the tub.

Dr. Jonathan Arden: It’s significant to me that the gun is in the wrong place on the wrong side.

Peter Van Sant:  Because he’s right-handed …

Dr. Jonathan Arden: He’s right-handed — entrance wound in his right temple. How does the gun end up on his left side? … Once the bullet goes through his brain, he’s unconscious. He can’t transfer the gun.

Christian Andreacchio
Crime scene photographs show that the bullet had struck the wall on the opposite side of the bathroom next to the sink. But somehow, the bullet ends up in the bathtub and Christian is leaning over the bathtub.  Dr. Arden says none of this lines up. He believes someone must have put Christian in the position he was found, staging the scene.

Meridian Police Dept.


Crime scene photographs show that the bullet had struck the wall on the opposite side of the bathroom next to the sink. But …

Dr. Jonathan Arden: Somehow the bullet ends up in the bathtub and he’s leaning over the bathtub.  So, none of this lines up for him to have shot himself in the position where he was found.  It simply makes no sense. … Clearly, somebody put him there.  It’s a staged scene.

The coroner placed the time of death at 3:45. But Dr. Arden believes Christian may have died earlier. He says pictures show Christian’s body was in advanced rigor mortis.  

Dr. Jonathan Arden: Rigor mortis is the stiffening of the muscles that happens after death. … The development of well-formed rigor mortis tells me that he’s been in that position, unmoved, undisturbed for at least several hours.

Which, if accurate, suggests that Christian may have already been dead when Dylan went to the credit union to empty Christian’s bank account.

Todd Andreacchio: So, yeah, I believe my son’s dead and I believe he’s trying to steal his money.

The evidence led Dr. Arden to reach a dramatic conclusion.

Dr. Jonathan Arden: Somebody else shot and killed him.

Todd Andreacchio: I don’t see how you can argue with forensics. … Science doesn’t lie. People lie.

Peter Van Sant: Why would someone want your son dead?

Rae Andreacchio: Well, that’s the answers, you know, that we would like.

The family worked with a team of private investigators including Sheila Wysocki to dig further.

Sheila Wysocki: The scene was altered or staged. And usually when you do that, you’re hiding something. … The Andreacchios have had to fight tooth and nail for the truth.

The investigators recorded an interview with Dylan Swearingen a few weeks after Christian died. He had this to say about his visit to the credit union:

DYLAN SWEARINGEN : That’s the only thing that I didn’t understand. Like, why did he want me to have his money?

Dylan told them that Whitley and Christian were always fighting, and that Christian didn’t trust her, even sending Dylan to spy on her. 

DYLAN SWEARINGEN :  I was kind of like the babysitter. He always would ask me to check on her, see what she’s doing.

And Dylan repeated that he — and not Whitley — discovered Christian’s body. 

DYLAN SWEARINGEN :  When I opened the door … he was hunched over in the bathtub. And I knew that — I knew he wasn’t alive just the way he was just staying there … and it didn’t add up to me.

Whitley’s mom, Christie, says the day Christian died wasn’t the first time he allegedly threatened suicide, and that Whitley told her about an incident that happened about two months before his death.

Christie Chatterton: He had gotten intoxicated … and getting angry and heated and he had put the gun to his head.  And he even would put it to her head … And he was asking her if she loved him.

But remember, when police asked Whitley if Christian had ever appeared suicidal, she said she didn’t think so. Rae and Todd don’t believe their son ever held a gun to his head

Rae Andreacchio: We don’t think it happened.

Peter Van Sant: That does not sound like Christian to you.

Todd Andreacchio: No. No.

However, investigators found a misspelled message on Christian’s phone that was sent to Whitley the night before he died:

“If this doesn’t work when I get to my apartment I’m putting my pistol in my mouth and Im ending this I’m ending this once and for all becaus e whitkey your the closest I have ever been to happiness…”

Todd Andreacchio: I don’t trust any of the texts because they were in possession of his phone.

Don’t forget, Whitley had Christian’s phone at the police station. Todd and Rae believe the message could have been planted. District Attorney Kassie Coleman dismisses that theory.

Kassie Coleman: The phone … was on the tug boat with Christian at the time that those messages were sent. And so, I do not know of any way that those messages could have been manipulated to appear that they were coming from the boat if she was in Meridian.

Three years after Christian’s death, Benny Dubose, who had taken over as police chief, decided it was time to get fresh eyes to look at the case.  He assigned Captain Jay Arrington.

Benny Dubose: I gave him the case, and he worked his butt off.

Arrington, a 30-year veteran detective of the Meridian Police Department, combed through the case file and came up with a conclusion that Christian’s family had long waited to hear.

Jay Arrington: It’s homicide.

Peter Van Sant: Are you sure of that?

Jay Arrington: Absolutely.

Peter Van Sant: And do you believe that Christian’s body was moved at that scene, that somebody moved it after his death?

Jay Arrington: I have no doubt.

Captain Arrington, like Dr. Arden, concluded that Christian had been dead for several hours before the 911 call was made, allowing time for a clean-up.

Jay Arrington: The death scene had obviously been altered from its original state.

Arrington wrote arrest warrants for Whitley and Dylan. The charge: Manslaughter by culpable negligence, which means unintentionally causing a death while acting with disregard for the person’s safety.

Peter Van Sant: And were those warrants ever served?

Jay Arrington: No, sir.

In February 2017, before Kassie Coleman took over, her predecessor decided to hand off the case to the Mississippi State Attorney General’s Office.  They wouldn’t comment about it to

“48 Hours.” In October 2017, a Mississippi State prosecutor did present the case to a grand jury, but …

Peter Van Sant: Were you allowed to present your investigative report at the grand jury?

Jay Arrington: I wasn’t allowed to be at the grand jury. … It’s the only one I’ve ever had done that way.  In all my years, that’s the only one.

Without ever hearing from the detective who calls this case a homicide, it’s now up to the grand jury whether it will go to trial.

Peter Van Sant: Do you believe … in a court of law, you could get a conviction?

Rae Andreacchio: 100 percent.

Peter Van Sant: You were a member of the grand jury… correct?

Juror: Yes, sir.

Peter Van Sant: And what decision was made?

A CRUSHING BLOW

The woman at the heart of this southern mystery, Whitley Goodman, has never spoken publicly about the case until “48 Hours” came to town.

Whitley Goodman: Two weeks ago, it just came to me, like out of nowhere.

Whitley started talking when she agreed to meet our camera crew to get some video shots with her mom. She would not take questions, but she did read a poem.

Whitley Goodman: The title is “Moist” by Whitley Goodman.

The verses describe what she says is her tumultuous life after Christian’s death. 

Whitley Goodman
Whitley Goodman reads her poem to “48 Hours.”

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Whitley Goodman [reading her poem]: “I miss who I was, the person I once was allowed to be, before the anxiety, the pain and the notoriety — before your name was used in vain as the main source of my pain.”

In Whitley’s words, she is the victim. 

Whitley Goodman [reading her poem]: “Oh, it has been such a war. … I guess it’s me who we should hate.  I’ll be everyone’s escape.”

But there has been no escape for the Andreacchio family, which suffered a devastating defeat in late 2017, when that grand jury returned their decision to not indict Whitley and Dylan.

Kassie Coleman: From the jurors that I have spoken with — they did not believe there was sufficient evidence to prove either of these people guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of either manslaughter or homicide.

The Andreacchios were crushed.

Todd Andreacchio: I feel like the Meridian Police Department, the Attorney General’s Office and everybody involved officially has let us down.  They let somebody get away with murder.

Whitley’s mother sees the grand jury’s decision as just.

Christie Chatterton: She loved him dearly. … The greatest tragedy for her is still losing him and finding him the way she did that day.

But the Andreacchios were determined to keep their son’s case alive.  So, they took to social media, starting their “Justice for Christian” Facebook page.

And in June 2019, the podcast “Culpable” started covering the case.

The actions of Whitley Goodman and Dylan Swearingen were now being judged by a national audience.

[PODCAST] SHEILA WYSOCKI: The podcast is exposing all the injustices that have happened during this investigation.

People from coast to coast became enraged.  And they acted on that rage.  Among their targets, D.A. Kassie Coleman.

Peter Van Sant: Have you received threats?

Kassie Coleman: Yes sir.  I have received threats towards me, towards my family … threats of physical violence [sobs].

Peter Van Sant: Take your time.

Kassie Coleman: There’s a lot of tragedy and heartbreak in everybody’s family.

Peter Van Sant: Do you sleep with a gun by your bedside?

Kassie Coleman: Yes sir.

Peter Van Sant:  It’s that serious?

Kassie Coleman: Yes sir.

This past August, the controversy grew even more intense. Right before “48 Hours” travelled to Mississippi to cover this story, Capt. Jay Arrington’s investigative report from 2017 was made public for the first time. 

Rae Andreacchio:  I realized that this was— things we had never heard. 

Peter Van Sant: Arrington writes, “it’s my thoughts it could be suicide, homicide or accidental, with one of the three, to be proved with facts. Until that is established, the death should be classified as a homicide.” That’s a heck of a sentence. When you read that, what did you think?

Todd Andreacchio: I was shocked.

“48 Hours” spoke to Kassie Coleman just days after the report was released.

Peter Van Sant: Mr. Arrington’s findings— this report—was it presented to the grand jury?

Kassie Coleman: Yes. … I have had conversations with grand jurors that were on the grand jury and I’ve had conversations with the investigators that were presenting the facts. And they told me that all of the reports from the Meridian Police Department were presented.

But while “48 Hours” was reporting in Mississippi, we found a grand juror who said that’s not true.

Peter Van Sant: You were a member of the grand jury that was looking into the Christian Andreacchio case, correct?

Juror: Yes sir.

The grand juror agreed to speak if we agreed not to use her name or show her face.

Peter Van Sant
Peter Van Sant asks a member of the grand jury about Capt. Jay Arrington’s report. He read the major findings of the report, none of which the juror said she knew.

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Peter Van Sant: I’m holding a report here that is dated January 11th, 2017.  And it was written by a Captain Jay Arrington.  At the time, had you ever heard this man’s name before?

Juror: No sir.

Van Sant read the major findings of Captain Arrington’s report, none of which the juror said she knew.

Peter Van Sant: Does that bother you? … Does — is that something that you find in any way disturbing?

Juror: Yes, it’s very disturbing because it seems that he had a lot more information detailed in his report than what we were presented.

Todd Andreacchio: I think it’s a travesty.  I think my son deserves more than that.

Now, with the release of Arrington’s explosive report, the Andreacchio’s were finally beginning to think maybe they might have one last change at justice for Christian.

Todd Andreacchio: I think we need feds or somebody to come in here and—and clear this up. … I don’t trust anybody over in Meridian. I don’t trust the DA we’ve got right now. I don’t trust the DA we’ve got right now.  I wouldn’t want her anywhere near my son’s case.

THE CASE IS FAR FROM OVER

This past November, like they do every year, the Andreacchio family and their friends celebrated Christian’s life.

Rae Andreacchio: Today is Christian’s birthday, November 4th, and this is our 7th night to have wishing night

Heartfelt messages are written on lanterns and sent floating toward the heavens.

Todd Andreacchio: Wishing Night is kind of a way of just letting Christian knew we haven’t forgotten him.

Andreacchio wishing night
On Wishing Night, heartfelt messages in remembrance of Christian Andreacchio are written on lanterns and sent floating toward the heavens.

CBS News


This peaceful evening stands in contrast to the war of words and deeds in this emotional case fueled by social media that includes acts of cruelty.

Rae Andreacchio: All of Christian’s autopsy photos were — placed on social media and I think downloaded over 2,000 times.

Todd Andreacchio: They harassed my daughter.

Rae Andreacchio: I still believe someone set her car on fire.

Pam Swearingen: We’ve been run off the road.

Peter Van Sant: You’re kidding.

Pam Swearingen: Absolutely not.

Christie Chatterton: I bought a new car and within three weeks, it had bullet holes in it.

In “48 Hours”‘ interview with District Attorney Coleman, she said she would reconvene a grand jury if it turned out that Captain Arrington’s report had not been presented.

Kassie Coleman: I have said repeatedly and stand by … if that information was not presented, then yes, that is a situation that would open the door to allow the case to be re-presented to the grand jury.

Three months later, Peter Van Sant told Coleman that “48 Hours” learned from that grand juror that she was not informed of Captain Arrington’s 2017 report — a fact that may have changed her opinion on this case.

Juror: I think they should have done more investigating and brought it back to a grand jury again with more evidence, especially that report to present it to another jury to decide if that –it would be indicted or not.

Coleman confirmed that Arrington’s report was not presented to the grand jury and said she is willing to reconvene a new grand jury. She acknowledges the Andreacchio family doesn’t trust her to present the case, so Coleman is trying to find another prosecutor.

Rae Andreacchio: We’re 100 percent confident that if the information is presented fairly, that people will be indicted.  And then, of course, from there there’ll be a trial.

Complicating matters further, nearly three years after he finished his report, Captain Arrington was indicted in federal court, accused of using city funds for his personal use. J. Stewart Parrish is Arrington’s attorney.

J. Stewart Parrish: The allegations are false. They arise apparently from somebody either intentionally or maliciously misleading other folks.

Caught in the middle of all this are Dylan Swearingen and Whitley Goodman’s families.

Peter Van Sant: Is there anything that you would like to say to the Andreacchio family?

Pam Swearingen: That we loved Christian.

Christie Chatterton: We grieve for him, too.  Pam: And we grieve for him.

Whitley Goodman’s attorney Bradley Clanton has filed a $47 million lawsuit against the Andreacchio family, the podcast Culpable—and others—for defamation and emotional distress.

Bradley Clanton: You can’t torture people for the rest of their lives because they got accused of a crime.

The civil suit also seeks an injunction to shut down the “Justice for Christian” Facebook page, and end their public accusations.

Bradley Clanton: You’ve had four to five law enforcement agencies all the way up to the Mississippi Attorney General look at this and everyone has reached the same conclusion— that it’s a suicide.

Whitley Goodman [reading her poem]: “I was so confused whenever I started being blamed.  I really was. …  You know, if they were so weak minded that they took pride in, you know, hurting me without even asking me or confirming, you know, what the truth is then I don’t want anything to do with them.”

Todd Andreacchio: There’s only one life destroyed — actually destroyed, and that’s my son.  He’s not here anymore.

andreacchio-full.jpg
Christian Andreacchio

Rae Andreacchio/Cindy McDaniel


So, the case goes on.

Rae Andreacchio: I think that they wake up every morning and they have a choice of what they’re going to do with their day. You know, they get to go out and live and love and travel and get married if they want to and have kids. And, you know, Christian, that’s a choice taken away from him. [Emotional] Doesn’t he deserve justice? Don’t we deserve answers?

The Andreacchios are lobbying for a law named after their son.

Christian’s Law would restrict the public release of autopsy photos in Mississippi.


Produced by Chris O’Connell and Emily Wichick. Ryan Smith is the development producer. Grayce Arlotta-Berner, Michelle Harris, Joan Adelman and Diana Modica are the editors. Anthony Batson is the senior broadcast producer.

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