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Man Offers Youths $10 To Retrieve Boat; Runs Away As Youngster Drowns

June 25, 1985

DETROIT (AP) _ A man offered a group of youngsters $10 to retrieve his motorized model boat, which was stalled on a pond, then fled as a boy slipped beneath the water and drowned, police said Tuesday.

The boat drifted ashore Sunday as Kenneth Ray, 13, struggled in the lagoon, and the man ″picked up his boat and ran,″ Luther Johnson, 13, one of Ray’s companions, said Tuesday.

Police said they want to question the man.

″Homicide is investigating the thing right now,″ said Sgt. Gregory Gaskin said. ″We won’t know if there’s been a crime committed until we talk to all possible witnesses.″

Juan McClain, 12, said he, Ray and six other youngsters rode their bicycles to the weed-choked Blue Heron Lagoon on Belle Isle, an island park in the Detroit River about 6 p.m. Sunday. There, they stopped to watch a man operating his radio-controlled boat.

″The man pulled the boat in and refueled but when he sent it back out, it stalled about 20 feet away,″ said one of the youths, Terriance Davis, 15.

McClain said the man, whom he described as in his late 30s, asked the ″best swimmer″ among the youths to retrieve the boat for $10.

Davis said he, Ray and another youth began wading into the lagoon.

″There was lots of seaweed and sharp rocks in the water and when we waded in almost up to our shoulders, I saw the boat was too far so we turned back,″ Davis said.

Ray apparently slipped into a hole while returning to shore, Davis said. He said he tried to save his companion, but Ray struggled and disappeared into the water. He said he shouted to the man onshore for help.

″I told him my friend was drowning and asked him to help,″ Davis said. ″He told he he couldn’t swim and ’There’s nothing I can do.‴

″As soon as we told him that Kenneth hadn’t come out of the water he picked up his boat and ran,″ said Johnson.

The man stopped long enough to grab a can of gas and a battery used for the boat, said McClain.

″As soon as the man got his stuff he left,″ Johnson said. ″That man ran through some bushes that were six feet tall to get to his car. He hollered that he was going to call the police, but he never did. We did.″

Ray’s mother, Mary Ray, said she last saw her son before he went bike riding Sunday afternoon, then again when his body was pulled from the lagoon Sunday night.

″They called me and said they think my son drowned,″ she said Tuesday. ″When I got there they were still searching for him.″

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