On the 25th of July 2015, 21-year-old Lauren Agee went to Wakefest, a professional wakeboard event where fans can watch on. Lauren went to Wakefest with her friend Hannah Palmer, Hannah’s boyfriend Aaron Lilly and his friend Chris Stout. Whilst Lauren had met Hannah and Aaron before, this was her first time meeting Chris.
Wakefest takes place at Center Hill Lake, which is around 2 hours outside of Nashville, Tennessee. It is a three-day event, so many of the fans would camp out or stay on houseboats in the local marina. Lauren had told her mum that they were planning on staying in a cabin that weekend.
On the night of the 25th of July, a security guard at the event, Chris Yarchuk, saw Lauren at the bar. The guard says that Lauren, Hannah, Aaron and Chris all left the bar at around 2am, and walked down the dock to the lake. The group then took a boat back to their campsite.
Kassi Franks, a high school friend of Lauren’s who was also at Wakefest, also saw Lauren that night. Kassi said that Lauren had made it very clear to Chris Stout that she wasn’t interested in him, and that she had a boyfriend who she was very happy with and just wanted to have fun with friends.
Kassi also said that when Lauren realised they were camping instead of staying in a cabin, she asked Kassi if she could stay with her group. The campsite where Lauren’s group was located had a 35-foot drop to the lake on one side and a 90-foot drop to the lake on the other side.
Kassi said that she was worried about Lauren, as she had camped on the same campsite before and knows that there is a hammock that is tied loosely between two trees and dangles over the water that just doesn’t seem safe. But Kassi and her group had no space for Lauren to stay with them, so Lauren went to the campsite with Hannah, Aaron and Chris.
This was the last time Kassi saw Lauren.
On the afternoon of the 26th of July, a father and son went fishing on the lake. It was there that they found Lauren’s body floating in the water.
Lauren had not been reported missing by Hannah, Aaron or Chris. Lauren’s mother however was slightly concerned as she had been trying to get in contact with Lauren all morning by calling and texting her, but she never got any response.
When the police arrived, they spoke to Hannah, Aaron and Chris. They told the police that they had all been drinking the night before and by the time they got back to the campsite they were all drunk. Hannah informed the police that Lauren and Chris slept in the hammock that dangled over the water, whilst she slept in a tent with Aaron. Hannah said that when they woke up in the morning, Lauren was gone.
Hannah said that they didn’t report Lauren as missing as they thought she had just gone to meet someone, despite the fact that all of Lauren’s belongings, including her flip flops, mobile phone and purse were still at the campsite.
DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office ruled that Lauren’s death was an accident and that she had fallen off the edge of the cliff and died from either the fall or drowning. Lauren’s blood alcohol limit was found to be twice the legal limit. The official case report stated that Lauren died from blunt force trauma from falling off a steep cliff into the lake, and possibly drowned. Case closed.
However, Lauren’s mother, Sherry, wasn’t convinced. She wanted to know how Hannah, Aaron and Chris went about their day as normal on the 26th when they knew Lauren hadn’t been there when they woke up. She also wanted to know why they hadn’t even reported Lauren as missing.
Sherry has said that she saw an Instagram post on Chris’s account that was posted on the 27th of July, a day after Lauren’s body was discovered. It was a photo of Hannah and Aaron on a boat with the caption “best weekend ever”, which was later changed to “Wakefest 2015 went pretty good this year, met some new friends, that made it awesome”.
Sherry started looking into her daughter’s death, and she hired private investigator Shelia Wysocki to carry out her own investigation into Lauren’s death.
Shelia reviewed Lauren’s autopsy photos and immediately noticed what looked to be a strange bite mark on one of Lauren’s breasts. She also believed that Lauren’s body showed signs of strangulation. There was no water in Lauren’s lungs, which indicated to Shelia that Lauren was already dead before she hit the water and that Lauren was actually placed in the water to make it appear as if she had drowned.
Shelia believes that Lauren was either trying to get away from someone or fighting someone and because of that she fell back and hit her head which caused her death. Bruising on Lauren’s thighs also suggests that someone was kneeling on her, holding her down.
With all of this new information, Sherry filed a wrongful death suit against Hannah, Aaron and Chris in an effort to try and get the three of them to talk. But, instead of talking, all three of them plead the Fifth Amendment. The suit outlined all the circumstances around Lauren’s death, and it alleged that Hannah, Aaron and Chris either intentionally, recklessly or negligently caused Lauren’s death.
Detective Taylor, the lead detective in Lauren’s death, was required to outline the investigation as part of the wrongful death suit. Detective Taylor admitted that he had never worked a homicide case before and that he had no training in homicide investigation. It also came to light that no rape test was conducted on Lauren’s body, her body was never swabbed for DNA and no DNA evidence was collected from under her fingernails.
Furthermore, Detective Taylor did not interview the person who found Lauren’s body, nor did he interview the person who placed the 911 call. He did not speak to any of the residents who were docked in houseboats close to where Lauren’s body was found, and he didn’t look for any evidence on the rocks or in the water.
As part of her case, Sherry hired a hydrologist who determined that if Lauren had fallen from the cliff where she had been camping, it would have been impossible for her body to float against the current to the cove where her body was located.
Mr Leiker, a former police officer who now investigates and consults on homicide investigations, was also asked by Sherry to give his thoughts as part of the wrongful death suit. He said that he believes Lauren’s death was a homicide that was covered up by Hannah, Aaron and Chris. He also thinks that the police investigation into Lauren’s death was insufficient.
Mr Leiker pointed to the facts that there was no water found in Lauren’s lungs, there were injuries on Lauren’s body that indicated she was involved in a struggle before her death and are not consistent with a fall, and there are symmetrical injuries on Lauren’s back which are consistent with a body being dragged, and Lauren’s clothes and body are not consistent with somebody who had fallen down a hillside.
A judge dismissed Sherry’s wrongful death suit on the basis that there was insufficient evidence, but the Tennessee Court of Appeals overturned that decision which means that Sherry and the rest of Lauren’s family have the right to pursue the wrongful death suit against Hannah, Aaron and Chris.
Hannah, Aaron and Chris have all denied any involvement in Lauren’s death, and they have never been charged with any wrongdoing.
What really happened to Lauren that night?
Unsolved, Murder, Homicide, Tennessee, Nashville, Wakefest, 2015, Lauren Agee, True Crime, Unsolved Case, Wrongful Death, Mystery