GOUVERNEUR — In just one week, north country community members have galvanized a justice movement in response to the death of Treyanna Summerville, the Gouverneur High School senior whose classmates graduated Friday.
In the seven days since Ms. Summverille was reported dead at 135 Rowley St., organizers have rallied, distributed #Justice4Trey T-shirts, shared observations of signs that Ms. Summerville was physically and psychologically abused in her home, established a school scholarship in Ms. Summerville’s memory and called on the Gouverneur Police Department and St. Lawrence County Child Protective Services to address alleged system failures.
Ms. Summerville’s father, Cedric Summerville, traveled from Seattle and her older stepbrother, Isiah Samuels, made the trip from Pennsylvania to be with the Gouverneur community this week. They don’t plan on leaving any time soon.
“I got a one-way ticket here, I’m not leaving until she is locked up,” Mr. Summerville said at a rally Saturday, referring to Lashanna Charlton, Ms. Summerville’s mother who lived at the Rowley Street home with her two daughters. “I promise you that.”
One suspect is currently in custody, according to St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary M. Pasqua and state police records, which list the arrested party as a 13-year-old girl, who Mr. Samuels identified as his half sister who lived with Ms. Summerville and Mrs. Charlton on Rowley Street.
The 13-year-old was arrested on the afternoon of June 22 at the state police station on Route 11 in Gouverneur and arraigned on a second-degree murder charge in the youth part of St. Lawrence County Family Court.
Law enforcement and the DA’s office have not confirmed the identity of the 13-year-old in custody.
Mrs. Charlton has retained legal representation with Melissa K. Swartz, of Green & Brenneck, Syracuse. Ms. Swartz confirmed her representation of Mrs. Charlton on Monday, though she declined to comment about when she was retained, why she was retained or any case details.
Biographical information about Ms. Swartz on the Green & Brenneck “Team Green Lawyers” website lists Ms. Swartz as a criminal defense attorney. During her time as the legal research coordinator for the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office, Ms. Swartz focused on “highly contested criminal cases, specifically homicide cases and cold case files.”
All week, Mr. Samuels and many of Ms. Summerville’s classmates have maintained they believe the 13-year-old is innocent. Mr. Samuels, Mr. Summerville and classmates further believe Mrs. Charlton is responsible for abuse, neglect and manipulation of her children.
“Trey was isolated from me, she was isolated from all of our family,” Mr. Summerville told about 100 community members who reconvened Saturday in the Gouverneur village park after a silent march for justice. “We tried so hard to reach out to her, but the only way we could reach out to her was through social media. But when somebody’s controlling that, what can they do? Those kids are coached to say stuff to protect somebody that shouldn’t be protected.”
A Freedom of Information Law request was filed with the Gouverneur Police Department last week, inquiring about records and incident reports related to Mrs. Charlton, her husband Rhodney A. Charlton, Mr. Samuels, Mr. Summerville, Ms. Summerville and the 13-year-old now charged with murder.
In a response issued Monday afternoon by Gouverneur Police Chief Laurina Greenhill, no records were found for Mr. Summerville, but records pertaining to all other parties were found. The FOIL access request to those records was denied based on the assumption that the disclosure of the information “would interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings” or “deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or impartial adjudication.”
Last week, Chief Greenhill told WWNY-TV that Gouverneur PD responded to 135 Rowley St. 16 times in the last seven years, and that the department has 25 total reports relating to members of the family. Chief Greenhill also disclosed that the very first call to Gouverneur PD related to Ms. Summerville’s family was for a child abuse or neglect complaint on March 28, 2013. According to what Chief Greenhill told WWNY-TV, additional calls involved incidents related to child abuse or neglect, welfare checks, juvenile runaway, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief.
Chief Greenhill also disclosed that Ms. Summerville called Gouverneur PD once on Jan. 4 to report a missing juvenile.
A FOIL request was also filed for an incident report related to Ms. Summerville found sleeping inside the Colonial Laundromats, 180 E. Main St., about four weeks ago.
Last week, Gouverneur home health aide Staci Serviss said she saw Ms. Summerville at the laundromat and observed her with cuts on her face and blood on her shirt. When she woke her to check if she needed help, to offer her a place to stay or a hotel room for the night, Ms. Serviss said Ms. Summerville replied that she was OK.
“You could tell she was scared of what was going to happen now that I’d seen her like that,” Ms. Serviss said.
After calling Gouverneur PD, Ms. Serviss said officer Jason Whitton responded to the laundromat and went inside to speak with Ms. Summerville. Upon reporting back to Ms. Serviss outside, she recalled Mr. Whitton saying something similar to “she has mental issues, don’t worry about it...she’s known for walking around town and digging at her face to make it bleed like that. She digs at her scars.”
The FOIL request for the laundromat incident report was denied for the same reasons listed above. A FOIL request for the disciplinary records, if any exist, for Gouverneur officers Alex Daggett and Jason Whitton was returned Monday. According to Chief Greenhill, no records were found for either officer.
As of Friday, the scene at the Rowley Street residence has been cleared, and Mr. Pasqua said no additional information about the investigation into Ms. Summerville’s death, which was officially declared a homicide investigation June 23, is being released at this time.