Family of woman who died during 2015 camping trip horrified by ‘incompetence of police’

Three years after the body of 21-year-old Lauren Agee was found floating in a Tennessee lake, the lead detective on the case has admitted under oath that he did not interview people at the scene, did not look for DNA evidence or order a rape kit before ruling the woman’s death an accident.

In July 2015, Agee went camping with four friends during a popular three-day wakeboarding event called Wakefest in Smithfield. 

On the morning of July 26, she was found floating facedown in Center Hill Lake.

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What really happened to Lauren? Lauren Agee, 21, was found dead in a Tennessee lake in 2015 while on a camping trip with friends and her death was ruled an accident, but her family disagree

What really happened to Lauren? Lauren Agee, 21, was found dead in a Tennessee lake in 2015 while on a camping trip with friends and her death was ruled an accident, but her family disagree

What really happened to Lauren? Lauren Agee, 21, was found dead in a Tennessee lake in 2015 while on a camping trip with friends and her death was ruled an accident, but her family disagree

Agee was found floating facedown in Center Hill Lake after allegedly falling from a cliff 

Agee was found floating facedown in Center Hill Lake after allegedly falling from a cliff 

Agee was found floating facedown in Center Hill Lake after allegedly falling from a cliff 

Then-DeKalb County Sheriff’s detective Jeremy Taylor conducted a two-month investigation and concluded that Agee fell from a cliff into the lake and either died from the fall or drowned, reported Fox 17. 

His report detailing his findings was just three paragraphs long. 

Detective Jeremy Taylor, the lead detective on the case with no prior homicide investigation experience, was deposed as part of a lawsuit this summer, admitting that he failed to talk to witnesses or look for DNA or blood evidence 

Detective Jeremy Taylor, the lead detective on the case with no prior homicide investigation experience, was deposed as part of a lawsuit this summer, admitting that he failed to talk to witnesses or look for DNA or blood evidence 

Detective Jeremy Taylor, the lead detective on the case with no prior homicide investigation experience, was deposed as part of a lawsuit this summer, admitting that he failed to talk to witnesses or look for DNA or blood evidence 

But Agee’s mother, Sherry Smith, was not satisfied with the results of the probe and in 2016 filed a $10million wrongful death lawsuit against her late daughter’s friends who had gone camping with her: Aaron Lilly, Brix Gambrell, Hannah Palmer, Christopher Stoudt.

The friends always denied any involvement in Agee’s death and were never charged with any wrongdoing.  

As part of that lawsuit, Smith’s lawyers deposed detective Taylor in June 2018, forcing him to detail his investigation into Agee’s death, revealing the gaping holes in the case.

During the videotaped deposition, the now-former detective admitted that he did not listen to 911 calls reporting the discovery of Agee’s body, nor did he interview the people who had made those calls.

When asked why he did not talk to the callers, Taylor replied: ‘I just didn’t.’

The ex-cop also said he did not know when Agee was last seen alive and he did not attempt to speak to the residents of houseboats that were docked not far from the spot where her body was recovered by fishermen.

In 2016, Agee's mother filed a $10million wrongful death lawsuit against her late daughter's friends who had gone camping with her, among them Hannah Palmer (right)

In 2016, Agee's mother filed a $10million wrongful death lawsuit against her late daughter's friends who had gone camping with her, among them Hannah Palmer (right)

In 2016, Agee’s mother filed a $10million wrongful death lawsuit against her late daughter’s friends who had gone camping with her, among them Hannah Palmer (right)

None of the four friends, among them Chris Stout (right) was ever charged with any wrongdoing in connection to her death

None of the four friends, among them Chris Stout (right) was ever charged with any wrongdoing in connection to her death

None of the four friends, among them Chris Stout (right) was ever charged with any wrongdoing in connection to her death

When asked if he looked for blood evidence on the rocks at the campsite, he replied with a bowed head: ‘no, not specifically, no.’

Agee’s family hired a hydrologist who determined that if the young woman fell from the cliff where she and her friends were camping, like Taylor’s report claimed, it would have been impossible for her body to float against the current to the cove where her body eventually ended up.

During the deposition, former detective Taylor admitted that he did not factor in the direction of the current during his investigation and did not think to bring in a diver to look for evidence in the lake.

‘I didn’t. I just didn’t,’ he said.

Taylor admitted that he had never worked a homicide case and had no training in homicide investigation.

He said he made no attempt to collect potential DNA evidence from under Agee’s fingernails and did not request a rape kit because the victim was supposedly on her period at the time of her death. 

After watching the recording of Taylor’s deposition, Agee’s mother said she was ‘shocked’ by his answers.  

Agee¿s family hired a hydrologist who determined that if the young woman fell from the cliff where she and her friends were camping, like Taylor¿s report claimed, it would have been impossible for her body to float against the current (pictured)

Agee¿s family hired a hydrologist who determined that if the young woman fell from the cliff where she and her friends were camping, like Taylor¿s report claimed, it would have been impossible for her body to float against the current (pictured)

Agee’s family hired a hydrologist who determined that if the young woman fell from the cliff where she and her friends were camping, like Taylor’s report claimed, it would have been impossible for her body to float against the current (pictured)

Agee's mother, Sherry Smith (right), has used her savings to hire a private investigator in an effort to find out what really happened to her daughter  

Agee's mother, Sherry Smith (right), has used her savings to hire a private investigator in an effort to find out what really happened to her daughter  

Agee’s mother, Sherry Smith (right), has used her savings to hire a private investigator in an effort to find out what really happened to her daughter  

Unsatisfied with the results of the official investigation, Agee’s mother used her savings to hire a private detective in February 2016 after the first police officer to respond to the scene, Chris Yarchuck, told her he didn’t agree with Taylor’s findings.

‘There is no way that was an accident, I will go to the grave believing that girl was killed, her body was moved and they are hiding the truth,’ Yarchuck told Fox17.

Agee’s friends told police they were all drunk when they returned to the campsite and Agee fell asleep in a hammock close to the cliff edge with Stout.

Dekalb County Sheriff's Patrick Ray conceded in July 2018 that former detective Taylor could have collected more informatio

Dekalb County Sheriff's Patrick Ray conceded in July 2018 that former detective Taylor could have collected more informatio

Dekalb County Sheriff’s Patrick Ray conceded in July 2018 that former detective Taylor could have collected more informatio

When they woke up the following morning, they said Agee was nowhere to be found and they assumed she had gone off to meet someone at the wakeboarding event.

Her friend Palmer did tell police she was worried because Agee’s flip flops, phone and wallet were still at the campsite. Palmer said she went looking for her friend, presuming she would run in to her at the lake.

But the family’s private investigator Sheila Wysocki claimed autopsy photos show a strange bite mark near the young woman’s breast and that Agee had bleeding in her throat suggesting strangulation.

In March 2017, a judge dismissed Smith’s wrongful death lawsuit against her daughter’s friends, ruling there was insufficient evidence.

Dekalb County Sheriff’s Patrick Ray conceded in July 2018 that former detective Taylor could have gathered more information, but he refused to say that he should have done so.  

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