Lauren Agee: What Happened On the Cliff?

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Lauren Agee: What Happened On the Cliff?

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Lauren Agee’s life seemed perfect. She was talented, beautiful, in her second year of studying criminal justice in college, and seemed to be in a loving relationship with her boyfriend.

Everything in her life was great, she was living here at home with us, she had a boyfriend. She was so happy, and then she died.”

— Sherry Smith, Lauren's Mother

In the middle of July 2015, 21-year-old Lauren told her mother she was invited to go to Wakefest with some friends.

Lauren's mother Sherry Smith (pictured together) is convinced her daughter was murdered and has launched her own investigation and brought a $10m wrongful death lawsuit

Lauren Agee (left) and her mother, Sherry Smith (right) via Daily Mail

Sherry Smith, Lauren’s mother, told True Crime Daily, “Lauren came down that day and said, ‘Mom, there’s this thing called WakeFest I want to go to,’ and I said ‘Honey, what is WakeFest?'”

Sherry found out that WakeFest is a three-day-long festival that takes place at Center Hill Lake near Nashville, Tennessee. Consisting mostly of people in their twenties, WakeFest is a wild party all day and night, and there are not many rules or security measures.

According to True Crime Daily, when Sherry asked Lauren who she would be going with, Lauren told her she was “going with Hannah Palmer.” Sherry explained that “Hannah was a friend that… was only [there] or around Lauren in between boyfriends.”

Sherry was worried about her daughter, especially since she didn’t fully trust Hannah. Sherry told True Crime Daily, “As a mom I just really had this really bad feeling, and then she started to walk away and I went ‘No, no, no, I want one more hug, one more hug,’ and she [came] over and I just squeezed her really tight and I said, ‘Lauren, be careful.'”

Lauren and Hannah updated their social media on the road trip to WakeFest, and at first, Lauren was having a great time. According to True Crime Daily, people noticed “there was alcohol in [Lauren’s] system… She was having a good time.”

One of the last pictures of Lauren alive. Lauren (left) slept on this hammock with Chris Stout (right) via Daily Mail

At some point, Lauren and Hannah met up with Hannah’s new boyfriend, Aaron Lilly, and one of his friends, Christopher Stout. Chris was a stranger to both Hannah and Lauren.

Although he was a stranger, some people at the festival noticed Chris was hitting on Lauren, who made it very clear she was not interested in him.

A high school friend of Lauren who was also at WakeFest, Kassi Franks, told True Crime Daily that she felt as though Lauren “was just having to put up with [Chris]. She was Hannah’s ‘wing man.'”

Later that day, Lauren, Hannah, Aaron, and Chris all went cliff-diving together. Cliff-diving at Center Hill Lake is dangerous due to the steep cliff and sharp rocks hidden under the water. According to the group, when Lauren jumped, she hit the back of her head on the rocks.

Sherry told True Crime Daily, “The kids said that she hit the back of her head and… maybe she was knocked out for a few seconds or maybe it was a concussion.”

People reported that Lauren seemed fine later that night at the bar, where the group spent the rest of the night.

The hammocks Lauren and friends were sleeping in were hanging over the edge of a cliff via Daily Mail

It wasn’t until 2 AM that the group decided to head off to bed. Up until then, Lauren thought that they were sleeping in a cabin. However, all the cabins were already filled up, so the group had to sleep near a narrow cliff instead.

Around 3 AM, Hannah and Aaron left to sleep in the only empty tent in the area, leaving Lauren and Chris to share a hammock.

The hammocks were loosely tied between two trees over the cliff. One one side of the cliff was a 90 foot drop, and a 45 foot drop was on the other side. Even the bathroom in the area was precarious.

Kassi told True Crime Daily, “I could see that 100 percent that [Lauren] did not want to be up there on that cliff.”

Some people at the festival reported seeing Lauren arguing with her friends, who had stolen her car keys. Apparently Lauren wanted to leave the festival that night instead of sleeping in the hammock, but her friends refused to let her drive home.

Her friends dismissed the idea that this interaction as anything malicious and explained that they had only taken her keys off of her to stop her from driving home drunk.

Either way, Lauren did not go home and ended up sleeping in the hammock with Chris.

The next morning, it seemed Lauren had disappeared. Her shoes, cellphone, and other belongings were still near the hammock, but Lauren herself was nowhere to be seen.

Instead of reporting Lauren as missing, her friends carried on with their day at WakeFest. Hannah later told authorities that they didn’t report a disappearance because they assumed Lauren “must have gone back to the bar,” according to True Crimes Daily.

At this point, Sherry was panicking. She hadn’t heard from her daughter since mid-Saturday, and now it was Sunday morning. Sherry told True Crimes Daily, “Sunday morning I started calling and calling and calling, and… it was little texts, it was like ‘Hello, hey you,’ and just no answer.”

Later that morning, two fishermen spotted a “bright pink color in the water,” according to True Crimes Daily. Upon closer inspection, the fishermen discovered Lauren Agee’s body floating in the water in a cove. They immediately alerted a nearby police officer. At that point, only four people knew that there was a body in the area.

According to True Crimes Daily, before the police and fishermen could even reach Lauren’s body, a local worker Harry Elder saw “Aaron… in a canoe paddling over there and he says to me, ‘That could be one of our friends over there,’ and I think that’s odd because we haven’t publicly announced anything about a person in the water.”

Once close enough to the scene of the crime, Officer Yarchuk told True Crimes Daily that he “noticed a bunch of trauma and blood on the back of her head on her left side and her shoulder area.” He also noticed a mark on Lauren’s chest that could have been a bite mark. In addition, there were bruises on Lauren’s thighs, as if someone had been holding them down, and hemorrhaging in her throat as if someone had put pressure on her neck.

Although Yarchuk suggested a rape kit test be done on Lauren, no rape kit was conducted and her body was never swabbed for DNA due to the fact that she was dressed and had a tampon in.

The official report labeled the case an accident. The report was that she died of blunt-force trauma from falling off the cliff before possibly drowning. However, there was something that didn’t quite follow that story. Lauren had been floating when she was found, and people who have drowned don’t normally float. Yarchuk told True Crimes Daily that he knows “she didn’t drown. People that drown sink. She was floating.” While it is unusual, Lauren could have dry drowned, which is when someone drowns without getting water in their lungs.

There was also a strange mark on Lauren’s stomach. After a while, Yarchuk realized that the mark on Lauren’s stomach matched the tip of the canoe. He believed that Lauren was placed face-down on the canoe after she was already dead and that the bow of the canoe made that indentation on her stomach.

The mystery mark on Lauren’s stomach via Daily MailDuring all of this, Lauren’s friends did not seem to be troubled. They stayed at WakeFest and partied the rest of the weekend. They also continued to post on social media, and the day after Lauren’s death, Chris Stout posted on his Instagram, “Best weekend ever.” None of them attended the funeral either.

Most suspicious of all was that their stories kept changing. Originally, Hannah claimed she saw Lauren go out onto a boat with a man. Later, Hannah’s story changed. Her new story was more similar to what Aaron and Chris were saying; Lauren must have fallen while she was peeing.

Hannah’s story about falling while peeing proved false when Yarchuk tested to see whether someone could fall from that spot and end up in the water. It would have been nearly impossible for Lauren to end up in the water rather than caught in the trees or in a flat area of land.

According to True Crime Daily, Chris Stout is currently in jail for parole violation with two pending DUI charges. It was also discovered that Aaron Lilly has a history of DUI and domestic abuse charges.

Whether it was a drunken accident that someone… hurt her and they didn’t mean to hurt her, but they hurt her — but I still don’t think she fell off the cliff.”

— Kassi Franks

The path Lauren’s body would have had to float for her to have fallen accidentally and ended up where he body was found is nearly impossible via Daily Mail

Sherry was not convinced that her daughter’s death was an accident, and she hired a private investigator, Sheila Wysocki. After completing tests over the cliff with a dummy the same height and weight as Lauren, Wysocki told True Crime Daily that she came to the conclusion that it was not an accidental drowning. She said, “Because of her injuries… there are two possibilities. She fell off one side, which is a 90-foot drop; or she went off the other side. And there is no way her injuries added up to what’s on her body. So if she was without her shoes, the bottom of her feet would be torn up like meat. It’s not. There’s just one little injury on there. The bruising in her back does show that she fell, but it doesn’t show that she fell off the cliff. She probably fell off the ledge to another ledge.”

Sherry is convinced Lauren’s death was more than an accident, and she will not rest until justice is brought for her daughter. Although the case is closed for now as an accident, she will continue to search for more answers.

via Daily Mail