This article was originally published in the Wise County Messenger on April 25, 2015. Photo submitted.
A dead body discovered in Bridgeport Wednesday afternoon has not been officially identified by authorities, but Bridgeport resident Jennifer Fortune says it’s her son, 17-year-old Brant Boatman.
“Based off of all the evidence – the cell phone, the gun, the clothing he was wearing … I’m certain it was him,” she told the Messenger Thursday.
Boatman ran away from home April 11 with a .45 handgun and his cell phone and is still considered a missing person by the Bridgeport Police Department. According to Assistant Police Chief Steve Stanford, the boy’s disappearance is considered an ongoing investigation.
The department received various tips since the 11th, placing Boatman everywhere from Wise Regional Health System in Decatur to a relative’s home in Ohio.
The body, along with a gun and a cell phone, was found in a wooded area south of Edison Street by two intermediate school students on their way home from school around 3:52 p.m., according to a statement released Wednesday by Bridgeport PD.
Officers were unable to determine the sex or identity of the body. Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Clay Poynor sent the body to the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas for an autopsy, and Texas Ranger Ron Pettigrew was also called to assist with Bridgeport PD’s investigation.
Authorities are still waiting on DNA evidence to be 100 percent certain of the body’s identity, which could take anywhere from 30 to 45 days, Bridgeport Police Assistant Chief Steve Stanford said Thursday.
“We’re still finalizing some leads and going through various details right now, and we’re still looking at who the weapon belongs to and where it came from and things like that,” he said.
Stanford added that no charges have been filed.
Fortune said officers visited her family around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to notify them of the discovery. She posted a Facebook status at 9:07 p.m. Wednesday stating her belief that the dead body was that of her son.
“To all those who tried to help me find my son … thank you … I have bad news y’all. They found him in the woods by our house. The texas [sic] rangers and police chief came to notify us. They took him to Dallas for an autopsy and I will give DNA tomarrow [sic] to confirm. But his phone was there and the 45 pistol. The ranger said it is 99% our son,” she wrote.
Numerous friends and family members offered their condolences on her Facebook page the last two days.
Fortune gave a DNA sample to authorities Thursday to “definitely confirm it was him, but everything that they found at the scene points to him,” Fortune said. “He had zip ties for shoelaces and they found that, his cell phone and the missing gun near the body.”
The Fortunes reported a missing handgun shortly after reporting Boatman missing on the 12th.
Fortune believes her son killed himself.
“He struggled with suicidal thoughts on and off for the last couple of years, and he was manic depressive,” she said. “He had been going to therapy and getting help, but he left that day after saying he was upset at being bullied and asked to go to the park.”
The family reported him missing the next day, noting that he had not been taking his medication.
Fortune said the gun Boatman had on him was left at their house by James Strickland, a 22-year-old who had been living with the Fortunes since November. Fortune said Strickland left for Florida on April 8 and left his gun at the house.
“Brant was kind of close with James,” Fortune said.
Fortune maintains Boatman was bullied at Bridgeport High School since his enrollment in August.
“He was kind of a loner kid, and he said people made fun of the way he dressed and talked about him behind his back,” Fortune said.
Bridgeport ISD Superintendent Eddie Bland released a statement Thursday morning consoling the Fortune family, reiterating that the body has yet to be identified
“We are sad and shocked to learn from local law enforcement that a body has been discovered in our community,” Bland wrote. “At this time, we have received no information confirming the identity of the individual. When one member of the Bridgeport ISD family hurts, we all hurt. Our hearts go out today to this family as they wait for news.”
Bland said he had not heard of any instances of Boatman being bullied, something he said he would have been acutely aware of.
“We talk about bullying all the time on an administrative level and take it extremely seriously, and there hasn’t been any record of him being bullied,” Bland said Thursday. “But I’m devastated. We all are. You can’t work in a school system and work with kids and not be devastated. Our staff is heartbroken.”
Bland added that intermediate school counselors are working to ease the trauma of the students who found the body, as well.
Fortune has taken her anti-bullying cause to Facebook and started a new page Friday called “Justice For Brant Boatman.” Its goal as stated on the page is “to stop bullying and teen suicide.” It had more than 200 likes as of press time.
A GoFundMe account has also been set up to help pay for Boatman’s cremation. As of press time, $130 out of the desired $2,500 has been raised.
“I just keep thinking that I should’ve looked harder for him or done more to try and find him,” Fortune said. “People are wondering why I didn’t do more, and that’s just the hardest thing of all. I just keep wondering, why did this have to happen to my son?”