Christian Andreacchio's 2014 death was declared a suicide by police but his parents disagree - saying it's more than parental intuition that leads them to believe their son was murdered.
Christian, 21, was a first mate on a towboat with dreams of becoming the youngest towboat captain on the Mississippi River when his life was tragically cut short
Christian was dating Whitley Goodman. The couple moved into an apartment together. Whitley's mother Christie Chatterton says Christian fell in love with her daughter and she feels the same way about him to this day.
Rae & Todd Andreacchio
February 26 2014 started out a normal day for Christian's parents Rae and Todd Andreacchio. But that changed when they got the news that Christian had been found dead in his apartment from a single gunshot wound to the head. The Meridian Police said Christian's death was a suicide. But his parents believe it was murder.
The 911 Call
Christian was in his apartment with his friend, Dylan Swearingen and Whitley the day he died. Dylan called 911 and told the operator Christian had shot himself. The Andreacchios have questioned whether the call was genuine or an elaborate act.
A Red Flag?
Christian's suicide didn't make sense to his family and his mother wanted answers. On the night Christian died, Rae Andreacchio asked her brother to drive over to the Meridian Police Department where Dylan Swearingen and Whitley Goodman were being questioned. Rae told her brother to make sure Whitley didn't have Christian's phone. Whitley initially denied having the phone but eventually turned it over to police.
The Meridian Police Department found gunshot residue on both Dylan, Whitley and Christian's hands. Christian's father Todd believes Dylan and Whitley were in the room when the gun was fired.
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.
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.
A Clean Bathroom
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.
Dr. Jonathan Arden
The Andreacchios hired former Washington D.C. Medical Examiner, Dr. Jonathan Arden to investigate their son's death. Dr. Arden says from the beginning he felt something was wrong, including where investigators found Christian's handgun. The gun was pressed between Christian's left thigh and the front of the bathtub. Dr. Arden says the gun is in the wrong place on the wrong side because Christian is right-handed and the entrance wound is in his right temple. So he questioned how the gun ended up on the left side.
Clues in the Crime Scene Photos
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.
Time of Death?
The coroner placed the time of death at 3:45, but Dr. Arden believes Christian may have died earlier. Rigor mortis is the stiffening of the muscles that happens after death. Dr. Arden says photos show Christian in an advanced rigor mortis -- meaning Christian's body had been in a position unmoved and undisturbed for at least several hours. If this is accurate, this would suggest that Christian may have already been dead when Dylan went to the credit union to empty Christian's bank account.
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 and Rae Andreacchio believe the message could have been planted by someone else. Lauderdale County District Attorney Kassie Coleman, who later inherited the case, dismisses that theory.
Capt. Jay Arrington
Three years after Christian's death, Capt. Jay Arrington, a 30-year veteran detective of the Meridian Police Department, combed through the case file. Arrington, like Dr. Arden, believes that Christian had been dead for several hours before the 911 call was made, allowing time for a cleanup.
Arrington wrote arrest warrants for Whitley Goodman and Dylan Swearingen. The charge was manslaughter by culpable negligence but those warrants were never served
In October 2017, a Mississippi State prosecutor presented Christian Andreacchio's case to a grand jury. Captain Jay Arrington was not allowed to present his investigative report. He says, "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 said this this case should be investigated as a homicide, the grand jury returned their decision to not indict Whitley and Dylan.
A New Grand Jury?
Upon learning that Arrington's report was not presented to the grand jury, District Attorney Coleman said she is willing to convene a new grand jury and is trying to find another prosecutor.
Every November on Christian's birthday, the Andreacchio family and their friends celebrate his life. On Wishing Night, heartfelt messages are written on lanterns and sent floating toward the heavens. The peaceful evening is a symbolic message to Christian letting him know that his family has not forgotten him.