There’s nothing I love more than reporting good news. Well, as “good” as any news surrounding a child’s death can be.
At the very least, we’re on the right track toward real justice for Treyanna Summerville, and that’s the best news I’ve heard in awhile. I’m as grimly elated about this news as I was when I heard that Alex Hurley’s 18-year-old aunt, Madison Sasser, was finally arrested.
18-year-old Treyanna was found dead in the family’s home at 135 Rowley Street in Gouverneur, New York in the early morning hours of June 22, 2020. By the end of the day, Treyanna’s 13-year-old half-sister, Rhianna, had been arrested and charged with murder.
The community of Gouverneur exploded over the perceived injustice of the situation, because, as I discussed in my initial post about Treyanna as well as on my most recent episode of Suffer the Little Children Podcast (Episode 20: Treyanna Summerville), many people familiar with the family had seen evidence over the years that Lashanna abused her older daughter.
Isiah Samuels, Treyanna’s older stepbrother, told reporters about his experiences being abused by Lashanna while he lived in the home, including being hit with a baseball bat and a frying pan. Isiah moved out in 2015 and assumed the abuse stopped, but friends and classmates of Treyanna knew otherwise.
Treyanna frequently appeared at school with visible injuries; often, she wore long sleeves and pants even in hot weather to hide them. She reportedly showed up to school one day with hair torn out and a tooth missing. Sometimes she didn’t show up to school at all; in fact, her absences had affected her grades so much that she was not on the list to graduate with her class on the evening of Friday, June 26.
Several classmates said they told school officials and even police of their concerns about Treyanna’s home life, but they were brushed off, according to the teenagers.
Gouverneur police had been called to the Charlton home 16 times in the past seven years for multiple complaints, including child abuse and neglect and domestic violence. Lashanna was even charged with felony assault and endangering the welfare of a child after whacking her stepson with a baseball bat in 2013. The disposition of that case is unknown, because the case is sealed.
By all accounts, Treyanna and her younger sister, Rhianna, were very close, and in all the discussion I’ve seen about this case, not a single person has made a comment suggesting they believe Rhianna was the person responsible for ending Treyanna’s life.
Well, here’s the good news: at around 9:00 AM on Wednesday, July 15, Lashanna Charlton turned herself in at the New York State Police barracks in Gouverneur. Shortly before 11:00 AM, Lashanna was arraigned in Gouverneur Town Court on a single charge of second-degree manslaughter, to which she pleaded not guilty.
Lashanna appeared feeble and weak and was escorted into the courtroom with the assistance of state troopers. The criminal defense attorney she hired the very week her daughter was murdered, Melissa Swartz, said that Lashanna had been hospitalized for most of the past week, and prior to that, she had spent some time after her daughter’s death in a psychiatric institution.
I’m holding my thoughts on this until I finish discussing the court appearance, but I can taste blood from biting my tongue so damn hard.
Ms. Swartz asked the judge to release Lashanna on her own recognizance, saying that her father was in the courtroom and wished to take his daughter home to Virginia with him.
St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary Pasqua said hell no (I’m paraphrasing), arguing that Lashanna is a flight risk.
The judge split the difference, setting Lashanna’s bail at $25,000 cash or $50,000 bond. Because her family could only afford $12,000, Lashanna was remanded to St. Lawrence County Jail.
Lashanna is scheduled for a preliminary hearing at 10:00 AM on Monday, July 20.
Now. As for Lashanna’s so-called “frailty,” my opinion on the matter is BULLSHIT, lady. She’s playing the “poor me” card as hard as she can to wring every ounce of possible sympathy out of the court system, the authorities, and the public. Good luck with that last one; the public has absolutely no use whatsoever for this woman. This is the same bullshit we’ve seen multiple celebrities pull when they get themselves in big-time legal trouble; think Michael “I’m so sick I wore pajama pants to court” Jackson, Bill “I’m blind when it’s convenient” Cosby, and Harvey “the elderly pervert” Weinstein.
I’m betting that, if she doesn’t take a plea deal, Lashanna is going to aim for an insanity defense, and again, I say good luck with that. In New York state, not only does a defendant have to prove they’re mentally ill (or “insane”), but they must also prove their illness prevented them from discerning between right and wrong, knowing what they did was wrong, and understanding the consequences of their actions.
Of course, at a news conference this morning, which I will embed below, Pasqua placed a good deal of emphasis on the fact that Lashanna is innocent “only until — and if — proven guilty.”
Anyway, my opinion aside, one more very important thing is still up in the air: what’s going to happen with Rhianna and her murder charge?
“That charge is still pending at this time,” Pasqua told reporters. “This is a fluid investigation. That charge was laid at that time based upon the evidence that we had and still have. Through the course of our investigation, based on the evidence collected by the New York State Police, there was a belief that there was probable cause to make this arrest today.”
When a reporter asked if the ongoing investigation could include anything besides Treyanna’s death, such as pursuing neglect charges against CPS caseworkers, Pasqua answered, “My focus right now is on the death of Treyanna Sumemrville and making sure we do everything in our power to uncover whatever the truth of that matter is and make sure that we do our best to get justice for her and make sure anyone who was involved in that is held responsible. That is our main focus right now. I’ve heard those rumblings; I understand what the community is saying, but as far as I’m concerned, job number one is what we’re doing right now, and that involves her death and the cause of that.”
One more bittersweet update on Treyanna’s case: on Saturday, June 11, family and friends gathered in the outdoor pavilion outside the Gouverneur Community Center to celebrate and memorialize Treyanna.
Not only was the gathering a memorial service; it was also a graduation party of sorts for the high school senior who should have graduated with her class last month. Treyanna’s diploma case was set up in the pavilion, and attendees lined up to sign her senior class yearbook.
Treyanna’s friend, Emily Burgess, said, “She didn’t get to have a graduation party, and this is kind of us giving her one for it. I feel like she deserves it.”
Gouverneur Mayor Ron McDougall attended the ceremony, saying, “We lost a teenager. I lost a neighbor. The community lost a great young person, a member of the class of 2020.”
Amidst balloons, flowers, and photos of Treyanna on display, classmates shared memories of their beautiful friend.
“Every day that we would see each other, I would hear ‘Hi, Taylor,’ really, really loudly from like the opposite end of the hallway or the school,” said Taylor Hance. “And I would turn around, and it was always Trey. We’d always see who could yell ‘hi’ the loudest, every single day.”
Emily Burgess said, “With her at lunch, it wasn’t a boring day. It was always fun, and jokes, and food fights sometimes.”
Alexis Stevens reminisced, “Treyanna was happy, bubbly, and she always had a smile on her face when she came to school.”
Taylor added, “She was so, just happy, and made every situation better, even though hers wasn’t always the greatest, but she was so determined to make everyone else’s better. She was the most selfless person.”
From Treyanna’s obituary: “On June 22, 2020, God decided that Treyanna was too beautiful for earth and He took her Home to His loving arms. She was a quiet, sweet young lady, whose smile could light up your soul. Treyanna was a member of the GHS Class of 2020, who had dreams of attending college or joining the U.S. Air Force. She enjoyed her time at school, where she was a dedicated student and track athlete. She would often be seen walking to her favorite places around town to enjoy quiet time. Treyanna was very kind and compassionate to those that were blessed to know her and will be greatly missed by many.”
Click here for my ongoing coverage of Treyanna’s story.
Sources: 7 News WWNY, North Country Public Radio, O’Leary Funeral Service