GOUVERNEUR — It’s been four days since Treyanna Summerville was found dead inside her Rowley Street home, four days since the Gouverneur community first rallied to honor the senior set to graduate from high school Friday.
As with any ongoing investigation, particularly an investigation involving alleged child abuse, domestic violence and homicide, there is much to learn.
After less than a week of requesting public records, speaking to Ms. Summerville’s classmates, friends and her stepbrother, and reaching out to Gouverneur Central School District, the St. Lawrence County District Attorney’s Office, state police and the Gouverneur Police Department, a few details are clear, but many more are unclear. Many vitally important questions remain unanswered.
Based on public records and interviews with Gouverneur residents, Ms. Summerville’s classmates and her stepbrother, here’s what we know:
A 911 call received at 2:53 a.m. Monday, according to state police records, dispatched first responders to 135 Rowley St. in the village.
Ms. Summerville, 18, was reported dead Monday morning by Gouverneur community members and Ms. Summerville’s classmates. The DA’s office confirmed Ms. Summerville as the deceased victim found inside the Rowley Street home at about 9 a.m. Tuesday morning. St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary M. Pasqua said her identity could not be officially released until investigators had contacted Ms. Summerville’s next of kin, who he said is her father.
Also Tuesday morning, Mr. Pasqua confirmed Ms. Summerville’s death is being investigated as a homicide, and one arrest had been made based on a second-degree murder charge.
State police records indicate a 13-year-old girl was arrested on a second-degree murder charge at 3:20 p.m. Monday at the state police station on Route 11 in Gouverneur. Neither law enforcement nor the DA’s office has released any other identifying information about the 13-year-old, who was arraigned on the charge in the youth part of St. Lawrence County Family Court, Mr. Pasqua said.
An autopsy was performed on Ms. Summerville’s body Tuesday, he said, and no results have been released. Finalized toxicology reports can take weeks.
Town of Gouverneur tax assessment records from 2019 indicate 135 Rowley St. is owned by Rhodney A. Charlton.
Mr. Charlton was identified as Ms. Summerville’s stepfather by Isiah Samuels, Ms. Summerville’s older stepbrother. Mr. Samuels said Mr. Charlton is an active member of the U.S. Military and is currently deployed in South Korea.
During a Wednesday interview, Mr. Samuels identified the 13-year-old in custody as his younger half sister, who he said lived at 135 Rowley St. with Ms. Summerville and Lashanna N. Charlton, 38. Mrs. Charlton is Mr. Samuels’ stepmother.
The family — Mr. and Mrs. Charlton, Ms. Summerville, Mr. Samuels and the 13-year-old — moved to the north country from Georgia in 2011, Mr. Samuels said, though Mr. Charlton was often out of the area due to his military commitments.
By the end of January 2015, Mr. Samuels had run away from the house, leaving what he described as a physically and psychologically abusive environment created by Mrs. Charlton over years.
“If I drank water without permission, I got beat,” Mr. Samuels said of Mrs. Charlton’s prolonged abuse. “That’s the house I lived in. ... I made the mistake of assuming that it ended when I left.”
Mr. Samuels and classmates of Ms. Summerville said county Child Protective Services caseworkers were called to 135 Rowley St. multiple times since the family moved in.
Ms. Summerville was observed by classmates, friends and community members to frequently bear bodily marks and scars and show signs of fear and distress, particularly when she talked about Mrs. Charlton.
Gouverneur resident Staci Serviss said she found Ms. Summerville sleeping inside the East Main Street laundromat in the village about three weeks ago. Based on her observations, Ms. Serviss said Ms. Summerville had a cut on her head and a bloodied face and shirt.
Ms. Serviss said she called the Gouverneur Police Department and officer Jason Whitton responded to the laundromat. He went inside to speak with Ms. Summerville, and 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.”
“I explained to him, that’s not just a little scratch, her face looks tortured,” Ms. Serviss said. “The pictures you see online, and on Facebook, that wasn’t her face when I saw it. She had no hair on her head. It was shaved-looking.”
A Freedom of Information Law request was filed Tuesday morning for the incident report related to Ms. Serviss’ call.
The agency has five business days to respond to the request — providing or denying access to requested records by Tuesday, June 30, in this case — as mandated by state FOIL requirements.
Three separate FOIL requests have been filed via email with Gouverneur Police Chief Laurina M. Greenhill earlier this week, and a phone call was made to the department during business hours Thursday, at 12:33 p.m., with a message left for Chief Greenhill following up about the requests.
At the time of this report, no one from Gouverneur PD has responded to the three FOIL requests or the two messages left — one Monday evening and another Thursday afternoon.
A request has also been filed with Chief Greenhill for officer Jason Whitton’s disciplinary records, if any exist, in line with the June 12 repeal of article 5, section 50-a of New York Civil Rights Law, which previously shielded officer disciplinary records from the public.
Gouverneur High School seniors Alexis Stevens, Taylor Hance and Emily Burgess, all 18, described Mrs. Charlton as manipulative. All three students said they believe Mrs. Charlton had control over cell phones, messaging apps and digital communication accounts, including email, belonging to Ms. Summerville and her younger sister.
Mr. Samuels also described Mrs. Charlton as manipulative, saying she had a powerful and controlling hand in how he, Ms. Summerville and his half sister acted while he was living with them.
On Sunday, Mr. Samuels spoke to his 13-year-old half sister over the phone. He said he believed Mrs. Charlton was present because he could hear her in the background, despite his half sister telling him she wasn’t around. Mr. Samuels said he did not speak to Ms. Summerville and that it sounded like his half sister was “reading from a script.”
We know one of Ms. Summerville’s favorite treats was plain cheesecake. We know Ms. Summerville excelled at track and field in middle school. We know Ms. Summerville studied criminal justice through the St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES program. We know she could have celebrated Friday with her friends and classmates.
Ms. Summerville’s cause of death is unknown, as it has not been released, nor has the date or time of her death, though she was reported to be found dead Monday.
The length of the investigation is unknowable. Investigators were still processing the scene at 135 Rowley St. on Wednesday.
Mrs. Charlton’s whereabouts are unclear at this time. Information about whether she has been taken into custody or whether she has been in contact with law enforcement or the DA’s office as part of the ongoing investigation has not been made public.
This story is developing, and when we can provide more definitive information, you will have it too.