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Police call veteran’s death a suicide, but mom wants investigation reopened

Jeffery Donnell Goggins Jr. | Family photo

Jeffery Donnell Goggins Jr. | Family photo

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Updated: December 23, 2013 2:37PM

Elmerre Goggins’ Lake Shore high-rise apartment has been turned into a war room.

The cocktail table is stacked high with boxes containing files and her son’s personal papers. The kitchen counter, draped like a shrine, is where her son’s watch, wallet, IDs, keys, driving license and credit cards are neatly displayed,

This is where Goggins, and her daughter, Christina Goggins, do the painstaking work of trying to figure out what happened to Jeffery Donnell Goggins Jr.

On Aug. 16, 2013, around midnight, the 32-year-old was pulled from the north branch of the Chicago River near Peterson Avenue.

The Sun-Times Media Wire reported that at least two witnesses said they heard someone arguing, then screaming for help from the water and called authorities.

Police investigators later dismissed those witnesses as being a “junkie,” and a “homeless” person, Goggins said.

But police also interviewed Goggins’ estranged wife, his girlfriend — apparently the last person who spoke to him — and several other witnesses before concluding that witnesses on the scene made “wrong assumptions.”

“Based on an extensive investigation, we believe this was a suicide,” said Adam Collins, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department.

“No he did not,” the mother said tearfully. “My son was pushed from that bridge.”

Goggins believes her son got into a confrontation with someone inside the home she owned in the 6200 block of North Albany where he was overseeing construction work.

She speculates that, fearing for his life, her son ran to the first well-lighted place.

“My son ran from the house,” she said, pointing out that they never leave the doors unlocked. When she went to the house after her son’s death, the doors were wide open.

“I noticed things out of place. I noticed things missing. I took pictures because I believed that it was a crime scene,” the mother said.

The official cause of death has not been determined because the toxicology study is still pending.

Goggins was not even swayed by a suicide note that popped up on her son’s Facebook page.

“It was not my son’s language,” she said. “He would have talked about his family. He didn’t do that. I want my son’s murderer brought to justice.”

Unfortunately, several factors are likely to make it difficult for Goggins to persuade police to reopen their investigation into her son’s death.

Tragically, every day 22 veterans commit suicide in this country.

Jeffery Goggins, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, had twice tried to kill himself, his mother acknowledged.

After a suicide attempt in 2012, the veteran went into “intense” counseling.

“He would never jump in the river or any body of water. He told us that in the hospital,” his mother said.

According to the deceased man’s sister, Christina, he was “not in a suicidal frame of mind” when she talked to him the day before the fatal plunge.

“He was so happy that he had gotten his daughters’ school supplies and was getting ready to mail them off,” she said.

Jeffery Goggins was the father of three daughters, two of whom live in Alabama.

At noon Saturday, the Goggins family will hold a memorial rally at the Peterson Bridge in the 3100 blk of West Peterson to bring attention to this case.

“I have been wanting to do it since his death. It is something for the family to get a proper closing,” the mother told me.

“At the same time, we are going to ask if anyone saw anything or knows anything, to please contact police,” she said.

Maybe I watch too many crime shows, but this seems like a situation where someone could possibly get away with murder.


Twitter: @MaryMitchellCST

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