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Cops: Kid’s Rail Death Is a Homicide

October 21, 1999

SELIGMAN, Mo. (AP) _ An eighth-grader last seen alive being chased from his girlfriend’s house by her father was hit by a train and found dead, but authorities say he was not on the tracks by choice.

Investigators say they believe that 14-year-old Justin Hocutt was killed _ but are still unsure whether he was dead before the train hit him or if he was knocked unconscious and left there to die.

``We believe there was a homicide and a conspiracy to cover it up,″ Ron Sparks, director of special investigations for the Arkansas Missouri Railroad Police, said Thursday. ``There’s numerous individuals involved.″

An acquaintance of the girlfriend’s family was arrested Monday on suspicion of destroying evidence, and at least two people wanted for questioning appear to have skipped town, he said.

Justin was seen about 4 a.m. on Oct. 8 being chased from his girlfriend’s home by her father, authorities said. Investigators believe he was hit by the train about two hours later.

The father had found the two juveniles asleep on the floor together, both fully clothed, and had asked Justin to leave, Sparks said.

The boy’s body was found the next day near train tracks that cross the tiny town near the Arkansas border. His body, thrown by the impact, was found about 300 feet from the girl’s home, Sparks said.

``Our first indication was that he had severe head and bodily injuries due to being run over by a train,″ said Barry County Coroner Skip White. ``Because of some other things that I cannot discuss, we believe that he was not up on the tracks laying down on his own accord.″

Justin had lived in Seligman with his father and grandparents for only a few months.

Justin’s father told authorities the boy hadn’t been home since Oct. 7, but he didn’t report him missing because he thought he was staying with a friend.

``That really wasn’t uncommon for that family,″ said Capt. James Smith of the Barry County Sheriff’s Department. ``He was allowed to roam probably more than he should have been.″

Authorities became suspicious about Justin’s death after several people gave conflicting statements and the autopsy results showed no signs of alcohol or drug use, Smith said.