Mom of teen who died at South Carolina juvenile camp demands justice


Del'Quan Seagers

Last Updated Oct 31, 2017 1:23 PM EDT

South Carolina lawmakers are examining the state's juvenile justice system after the death of a 16-year-old in state care. Del'Quan Seagers died at a remote wilderness camp for non-violent juvenile offenders. The Department of Juvenile Justice sent him there for violating probation on a shoplifting charge.

The camp is operated by AMIkids, a national nonprofit that runs 44 youth programs in nine states. AMIkids received more than $53 million last year in state and federal funding.

Del'Quan first landed in state custody after stealing candy from a discount store. He died the day before Thanksgiving in 2015 of asthma, according to a coroner's report. But now a whistleblower says that Del'Quan was actually beaten and that his death may be part of a wider pattern of violence and abuse, reports CBS News correspondent Tony Dokoupil.

Shadeama Seagers can hardly bear the 911 call from the night her son Del'Quan collapsed at the AMIkids camp in Patrick, South Carolina. But she listens to it because she does not believe that her son, an avid basketball player, died of asthma.

"He never has asthma attack. He had asthma but it wasn't severe asthma," Seagers said. She also said Del'Quan didn't have an inhaler.

The story she does believe – the story her daughter uncovered on Facebook – is that Del'Quan was beaten by other camp residents.

"Do you feel like you were lied to?" Dokoupil asked.

"Yes. For almost two years. I knew it in my heart," Seagers said.

A state audit released in January found that the Department of Juvenile Justice, which oversees the AMIkids camps "did not properly investigate claims" that Del'Quan's death "involved foul play." The department claims the death was "fully investigated."

Dwight Marshall is a former camp supervisor who was fired in an unrelated incident.

"How would you characterize the investigation into Del'Quan?" Dokoupil asked him.

"Slow, tedious, like no one cared," Marshall said.

He's speaking out now, he said, because Del'Quan was like a son. Marshall said he told the state and AMIkids in writing that, according to a witness, Del'Quan had been hit in the chest before he died. Both organizations deny receiving these documents.

Marshall said the problem isn't just violent teens, but some violent staffers too.

"Kicks, slaps, punches, closed fist, close range," Marshall said. 

Teen on AMIkids camp 02:26

In 2015, according to investigators in Florida, a teenager at an AMIkids facility was body slammed by a staffer, who was fired for failing to call for assistance. Last year, in Union County, South Carolina, an AMIkids camp director was charged with "unlawful neglect" after allegedly choking a 15-year-old. Two other staffers are accused of covering it up. The case is still pending.

But Seagers, who's not yet done mourning Del'Quan, has heard enough. She wants AMIkids held accountable.

"I want my baby back, but I can't have him," Seagers said.

"What can you have? What's going to help?" Dokoupil asked.

"Justice," Seagers said.

In a statement to CBS News, AMIkids said that multiple investigations by both local and state authorities found the organization "not at fault" for Del'Quan's death. In fact, they commend their staff's response that night and say that safety is something that all AMIkids programs take very seriously.