South Lake community mourns the death of teen Dejon Smith
A candlelight vigil was Thursday for South Lake Tahoe 14-year-old Dejon Smith, who was apparently killed when a 50-foot pine tree fell during the Dec. 11 windstorm.
Smith was found Saturday by family members in the wooded area behind the 3400 block of Rancho Way.
Smith had last been seen by his family the afternoon of the windstorm when he left home to meet with a friend, his sister Shauntyana Ethridge said.
Smith’s family filed a missing person’s report on the morning of Dec. 12 with the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, and searched for him through the day and into Saturday.
According to Ethridge, Smith had last been seen by one of his friends in the area of Bijou Community School. Smith was found roughly a half-mile from the area described by the witness.
South Lake Tahoe Police Department Lt. Brian Williams said Monday that an investigation into the incident was ongoing.
The Lake Tahoe Unified School District officials said, “our little community has been shaken to its core this weekend with the tragic news of the death of STHS freshman Dejon Smith.”
South Tahoe High School Principal Chad Houck said the administration’s deepest condolences to Smith’s family.
The high school’s counseling team helped students process the news and provided grief counseling to students. The school also contacted other counselors and grief support professionals in the community who were in the school’s Stadium View Building most of the day providing their services to students.
Houck also stressed the importance “to only spread accurate information, especially when information can be shared so quickly and easily through social media,” in reference to the extensive reach the case achieved on social media and many rumors that were beginning to circle within those platforms.
“It is important to understand that the police are still investigating the circumstances, and that it is not helpful to our community and the investigation to propagate any stories other than that which is released by the authorities after their investigation is complete,” Houck stated.
In addition to the sometimes-erroneous information, the response from the community was also largely supportive at first and filled with grief after the news of Smith’s death broke. Most who claimed to have known Smith expressed good memories of him and others sent condolences and prayers to his family.
“This will not be an easy week for our school and community,” Houck stated. “It is a time when we will be challenged emotionally and we will be able to demonstrate our character as a school where everyone wants to be every day.”
The vigil took place at 3443 Rancho Circle.