UPDATE Dec. 5, 2017:
A Lauderdale County grand jury has chosen not to indict Dylan Swearingen and Whitley Goodman in the 2014 death of 21-year-old Christian Andreacchio, The Meridian Star in Mississippi reports.
June 6, 2017:
A Mississippi murder mystery: Christian Andreacchio, a young man in his prime, takes his own life. But his family claims the crime scene investigation lasted only 45 minutes. Is there a cover-up to hide a cold-blooded murder?
In this Crime Watch Daily exclusive, we reveal new, never-before-seen clues in the case.
Christian Andreacchio may have hailed from landlocked Meridian, Mississippi, but according to family members he dreamed of a life spent on the water.
"He knew from the beginning he wanted to work on a tugboat and got on as soon as he turned 18 and worked on the same boat until his death," said Rae Andreacchio, Christian's mother.
"Christian was making a lot of money on the tugboat, he was happy, he was buying the things that he wanted, he had his own apartment with his brother," said Chris Thompson, Christian's uncle.
"He said he wanted to be youngest captain at Magnolia Marine, and he was on his way," said Todd Andreacchio, Christian's father.
Along with that drive to succeed came his unbridled joy for life. But his mother Rae and father Todd were concerned about a new love in Christian's life: 17-year-old Whitley Goodman.
"Initially she presented very sweet, cute, little blonde girl," said Rae.
In fact, Whitley actually lived with the Andreacchios for a short time.
"She described a very chaotic childhood and I think that's one thing that Christian wanted to save her, wanted to come in and take care of her, and then after about the first month things started to go downhill and I started becoming more and more concerned about the relationship," said Rae.
"We told him that she couldn't stay here anymore," said Todd Andreacchio.
"And so there were concerns. Her reputation was not very good," said Rae Andreacchio.
Christian worked 30-day hitches on the tug and decided to get an apartment in Meridian with his older brother, Josh, who also worked long stretches on a tug.
"She wanted somewhere to stay and then Josh needed someone to move in with him to help with rent and everything," said Rae. "So I mean it worked out for the two of them."
Christian reportedly let Whitley drive his BMW and stay in his apartment.
Then, a bizarre exchange between Whitley and Christian: After an accident he had on the tug, his family says she became worried about what would happen to her, especially if she got pregnant.
"He had fallen overboard and she said 'Well what happens if you get killed, or something happens to you, who's going to take care of me and the baby?' Well, he started asking about insurance then, you know, and I told him no, you don't put her as a beneficiary on anything, don't get her any insurance, or do anything like that," said Todd Andreacchio. "Why would you do that?"
"It appeared from the text messages that she had told him she thought she was pregnant, then she came back later, a couple days later, said she wasn't pregnant, but then she said 'What if I was pregnant, who would take care of me and the baby, because you know my mother wouldn't,'" said Rae Andreacchio.
But Rae also suspects something else.
"I think that she had found out that he had a life insurance policy at work that his previous girlfriend was the beneficiary, and she didn't like that," said Rae.
With long spells on the boat, Christian began to have his doubts about Whitley.
"It was a lot of conflict in the relationship," said Rae.
On the day before he supposedly committed suicide, Christian received several calls from his friend Dylan Swearingen.
"We were told that Dylan had called Christian several times on the boat telling him that Whitley was riding around in his car," said Rae.
Rae claims that fellow crew members, including a female cook, backed up that story.
"She said that they kept calling and texting and wouldn't leave him alone, and so of course he being 21, thinking he can take on the world, he said he was gonna come home, kick her out and get his car back," said Rae.
Unbeknownst to his parents, on the night of February 25, 2014, Christian received permission from his captain to leave the boat. His family says Dylan picked him up outside New Orleans and the pair drove back to Meridian and Christian's apartment. He would never leave.
About six hours later, Rae and Todd received a heart-stopping call.
"From my dad. Rae and I were at the restaurant and he called and told me I need to get home, said that something had happened to one of my kids, told me it was a tragedy, I need to get home," said Todd Andreacchio.
"And on the way home, on the way here, I kept saying 'Well it couldn't be Christian 'cause I talked to Christian this morning," said Rae.
Tragically, it was Christian.
Dylan Swearingen called 911 to report that Christian Andreacchio had shot himself in the upstairs bathroom of his apartment.
"Then the police showed up here and had his driver's license and showed me his driver's license and asked if that was our son, so that's how we found out," said Rae.
The family is obviously devastated -- but also very confused.
"He wouldn't kill himself," said Rae.
"That's not Christian. Why would he kill himself? He was coming home to run this girl off and get his car back," said Todd.
"There was never a doubt in Rae's mind, from the moment that she heard suicide, she never accepted that," said Chris Thompson. "Very few people did. Knowing Christian's character and his personality, it's just not him."
The Andreacchios go looking answers but they claim they're about to hit a wall of lies.
By all appearances, Christian Andreacchio, who worked a tugboat on the Mississippi, had everything to live for.
"His goal was to be a captain, the youngest captain at 27 years old," said Rae Andreacchio, Christian's mother. "They all say he would have made it because he was progressing pretty rapidly."
"He had two vehicles, Jet Skis, plenty of money in the bank and was 21 years old. He had everything in the world to live for," said Chris Thompson, Christian's uncle.
At the urging of his friend Dylan Swearingen, Christian had returned home to confront his girlfriend Whitley Goodman.
"Christian had bought a BMW and Whitley was driving it," said Rae. "She wasn't supposed to be driving it at the time because they had been fighting before he ever went back on the boat, and so supposedly he had told her to pack her stuff up and be out. They kept calling him according to the people on the boat that witnessed these phone calls, kept calling him basically provoking him to come home."
As the fog of grief cleared following Christian's death, the family went looking for answers -- but found only more questions.
First off, there's the initial police report and statements by Dylan and Whitley, the two people who were with Christian that day.
"They made a statement, they told them their sequence of events, and even though some of it didn't make sense they just kind of accepted it," said Rae.
Dylan told police that Whitley and Christian had been arguing that afternoon, and that "Christian pulled a gun out and pointed it to his head and asked Whitley 'Do you love me?'"
But according to Whitley's statement taken at the same time, when asked if Christian ever talked about hurting himself, she said "I don't think so."
Police performed gunshot-residue tests on both Whitney and Dylan's hands -- and both came back positive.
Seems suspicious, yet the Meridian Police Dept. did not investigate further. That's when Rae went looking for help from local attorney Cynthia Speetjens.
"I was really expecting someone who was hanging onto threads and that I would have to be some support system, but to explain to her how the system worked and how that just was never going to be prosecuted. That was not the person that I met. What she was saying was completely inconsistent with suicide, it was a physical impossibility for it to be a suicide," said Speetjens.
What immediately caught Speetjens' attention was the police report.
"They got there, the first officer at 5:05. At 5:43 they were pretty much done. And at 6:30 there was an officer on the way to the Andreacchio home to tell Rae and Todd Andreacchio that their son had committed suicide," said Speetjens.
Working with private investigator Max Mayes, they learned even more disturbing details.
"If you are, quote, 'the lead investigator' and you arrive on scene, that is your crime scene," said Mayes. "In this particular case an authority figure arrives on scene some point afterwards and tells everybody 'Wrap it up, this is a suicide.'"
"Chief Lee came in there and told them to shut it down, it was a suicide and he didn't even go upstairs and see anything that was going on up there," said Todd Andreacchio.
Crime Watch Daily reached out to Chief James Lee for comment but received none.
"About a month later when nothing had been done, Rae Andreacchio went to see then-chief Lee and he said 'This is a suicide and it will not be investigated.' He told her point-blank they wouldn't do it. Well, he told her the truth, because they never did," said Cynthia Speetjens.
On Feb. 26, 2014, the day of the suicide, according to the Andreacchios' attorney, Dylan and Christian arrived at the apartment around 11:30 in the morning. An hour later, Dylan is observed on bank security camera trying to withdraw all of Christian's money.
"You know, he was asked about that. He told the police that he had gone to the credit union to withdraw all of Christian's money. And they said 'Why did you do that?' And he said 'Because he wanted me to have it.' He said that Christian had told him he wanted him to have his money when he was driving from Louisiana back to Meridian. That apparently didn't cause anybody any concern or heartburn either," said Speetjens.
Unfortunately for Dylan, Christian apparently forgot to give him his account personal-identification number.
After running errands, he returned to Christian's apartment around 4 p.m. He claims Whitley was sleeping at the time but Christian was nowhere to be seen. That's when he went upstairs, knocked on the bathroom door, and says he found Christian inside, his upper body slumped into the bathtub, a gunshot through his head.
"When Swearingen made the initial 911 call he said he had seen blood spatter on the stairs. Now if he's closed the door, put his head in the tub and shot himself, why is there blood spatter outside the bathroom? That's the first thing that she said that I kind of perked up, you know -- 'How does that happen?'" said Speetjens.
Another cause for concern was the position of the gun.
"That gun was found wedged between his left thigh and the bathtub itself, so you don't have to be Jim Rockford to figure this out, he could not have shot himself in the right side of his head and then placed the gun in between his left thigh and the bathtub," said Speetjens.
And Whitley claims she slept through the gunshot.
"Somebody shoots a high-powered pistol in a 1,000-square-foot apartment and you never wake up?" said Chris Thompson.
Then there's the question of the gunshot residue on Whitley and Dylan's hands.
"Supposedly you're not at the apartment but there's gunpowder on your hands?" said Thompson.
"I have not read anything where Dylan was ever asked 'How did you get gunshot residue on you if you never entered the bathroom?'" said private investigator Max Mayes.
For her part, Whitley Goodman warned police that the test would be positive because she had been shooting guns the night before with a friend named Matt Miller.
"We're talking about, you know, over eight hours, almost 12 hours later," said Mayes. "You didn't wash your hands that morning when you got up? You didn't take a shower? You didn't take a bath? You just know you're going to have gunshot residue."
Yet despite all of this, Meridian Police released Whitley and Dylan that night. Neither has been arrested or charged with Christian's death.
"So what they have is these two people saying this young man committed suicide," said attorney Cynthia Speetjens. "It is physically impossible, they are obviously lying, and they have gunshot residue on their hands. So they send an officer to the Andreacchios' house at 6:30 to tell them their son has committed suicide. I'm baffled."
Meridian Police claim Christian Andreacchio put a .45-caliber pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. Christian's grieving family says no way. They're convinced Christian was murdered, and they're willing to turn criminal investigators if that's what it takes to prove it.
"We just want justice, whatever form or fashion that might come in," said Christian's uncle Chris Thompson.
"She and her family actually went to the apartment to collect a lot of the physical evidence because the police didn't," said attorney Cynthia Speetjens.
"I gave him a bloody shirt that was stuffed behind the commode in the apartment; a knife that had blood on it; and nobody knows where any of that stuff is now," said Todd Andreacchio, Christian's father.
"Why doesn't he bag that and take it to the evidence vault? Why did they not pick up this knife? Why did they not take a bloody shirt? The guy did not change clothes after he shot himself," said Speetjens.
They turned to Dr. Jonathan Arden, a world-renowned forensic pathologist who worked on such cases as the Washington, D.C. anthrax attack and the D.C. sniper.
"From the beginning I did have that feeling that something was not right with the death of Christian," said Dr. Arden. "The gun was basically wedged between his upper left thigh and the outside of the bathtub that he was leaning up against. To make things even more curious, the entrance gunshot wound is in his right temple. Once he receives that gunshot wound he's unconscious, he has no purposeful muscular activity like holding a gun or manipulating a gun."
"First of all it's a very powerful gun. If you're leaned over and you fire a weapon into the right side of your head, there's recoil. The gun goes that way, that's just, you watch 'Law and Order' you can get that," said Speetjens.
"The gun should have been close to his hand or certainly on the same side of his hand, and the arm and the body should have just collapsed in a heap," said Dr. Arden. "It makes no sense for both of his arms to be outside the tub. It makes no sense for the gun to be on his left, it makes no sense for the gun to be wedged between him and the bathtub."
Then there's the gun itself, a .45-caliber semiautomatic.
"That's the beauty or the functioning of a semiautomatic pistol: you pull the trigger, it fires, it reloads and you're ready to shoot again," said Dr. Arden. "In this case, the gun found with Christian had been fired and the hammer was forward, or 'de-cocked,' as it is sometimes called. This makes no sense because if he had simply fired the gun, shot himself, collapsed, the hammer would be back or cocked, and it wasn't."
"So someone had to physically do that. That is not possible when you have just fired a weapon through your brain," said Cynthia Speetjens.
Another problem is the "magic bullet" mystery.
"The bullet itself is even more problematic," said Dr. Arden. "The bullet has not only blood, but it has some foreign material consistent with wall board in the deformed nose of the bullet, so the bullet has had a strike against a piece of wallboard."
Crime scene photos show a bullet hole in the wall, but it's directly behind Christian's body.
"There is no evidence inside the tub of any bullet strike. If he's in that position as found, when shot, the bullet, after exiting his head, would have struck off of the inside of the tub, but that didn't happen," said Dr. Arden. "There's no bullet strike inside the tub area at all.
"In order for that bullet to go through his head, strike the wall behind him, he now has to have the bullet ricocheting madly around the room," said Arden.
Dr. Arden also analyzed autopsy photos, which he claims reveal even more contradictions.
"The people who discovered him said he had only been dead a short period of time. However, he was in pretty firmly developed rigor mortis by that time, which means that he had been there for hours, possibly, which is inconsistent with what they said," said Arden.
Dylan Swearingen and Christian Andreacchio arrived at the apartment at approximately 11:30 in the morning, about six hours before Dylan called 911.
"Lividity is the postmortem settling of the blood," said Arden. "Whichever areas are downward due to gravity will become engorged with more blood, so you will see on the skin surface that those areas become pink or red or purple. Well, if you look at the photographs, especially from the morgue, he has lividity that is well-developed and staying in place on the back of his right leg. He was basically kneeling against the outside of the bathtub with his knees bent, his calves were facing directly up to the ceiling, he has very well-developed lividity in his right calf even after the body has been moved to the morgue. He had to be positioned postmortem, after death, for a significant period of time with the back of his right leg facing downward."
For Dr. Arden, it all adds up to one inescapable conclusion.
"In this case in the death of Christian I feel very strongly, and I've signed my name to a report, that I believe this is a homicide," said Dr. Arden.
"This is what we call a staged scene. Somebody has staged elements of the death scene to try to create an impression in this case of a suicide. Unfortunately for whoever did this, though, they got it horribly wrong," said Dr. Arden.
If Dr. Arden is right, then why hasn't the Meridian P.D. investigated Christian's death as a homicide?
Crime Watch Daily reached out several times to the Meridian Police Department, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, the District Attorney and the Attorney General's office. Each agency declined our request for an interview surrounding the death of Christian Andreacchio.
"The case simply has not been investigated," said attorney Cynthia Speetjens. "I am not a law enforcement officer and quite frankly the fact the Andreacchio family had to hire me is offensive to me."
"This has been really hard on Rae. She's had to look at pictures of our son that neither one of us should have had to look at. Stuff that -- it's just heartbreaking," said Todd Andreacchio.
"I have no idea what I'm dealing with. I've been in the criminal law either on the prosecution or the defense side now for 34 years. I've never seen anything like this. Nothing," said Speetjens.
If Christian was murdered, who stood to gain? The Andreacchios dug deeper into the day he died and uncovered what might be the most damning evidence yet.
If the 21-year-old didn't commit suicide, as investigators first concluded, then who did shoot him? And what was the motive?
The Andreacchio family has spent thousands of their own hard-earned dollars investigating the death of their son, determined to prove that Christian's death was murder, not suicide.
"You know, this kid didn't commit suicide and I don't know how the family lives with that," said attorney Cynthia Speetjens.
So a grieving family has to fight to rule an obvious homicide as a homicide with their own money and their own time?
"Yes," said Rae Andreacchio, Christian's mother. "In Meridian, Mississippi you do."
The family definitely has an idea of who was responsible for Christian's death, and it starts with the two people who were with him the day he died: Whitley Goodman and Dylan Swearingen. Neither has been arrested or charged with Christian's death.
Remember, Christian's family says Dylan was captured on surveillance cameras trying to withdraw all of Christian's money from his bank account the day he died. And a closer look at Whitley's actions that day raises more questions.
"Well, when we found out she had his phone in her purse down at the police station, and she kept lying and saying she didn't know where it was, she didn't know where it was. And they finally told her nobody's leaving till we get the phone, she pulls it out of her purse. We knew something was wrong then," said Todd Andreacchio, Christian's father.
Christian's phone records show that on the afternoon he supposedly shot himself -- at the time when Whitley says she was asleep on the couch -- seven calls were made from Christian's phone to Matt Miller.
Matt Miller is the guy Whitley claimed she shot guns with the night before, her excuse for having gunshot residue on her hands. In fact, Christian's family says the reason he came home that day in the first place was to confront Whitley for being with Matt Miller.
So why would Christian be calling Miller right before he put a gun to his head? To get that answer, Crime Watch Daily went looking for the man himself. Miller was reluctant at first but finally agreed to speak with us.
Is he surprised that some people no longer think Christian Andreacchio's death was a suicide?
"In a way, kind of, not really. In a way, to me it looks like it was all set up," said Matt Miller.
What about that night before?
"So we went down a dirt road and Jett wanted to get out and shoot his new gun he got, his new pistol," said Matt Miller.
Jett Miller is Matt's cousin.
"He asked if Whitley wanted to shoot it. I would have shot it but Whitley said she was too scared to shoot it. So I had my hands over her ears the whole time. While Jett was shooting," said Miller. "And I've told police that numerous of times, like over and over and over. Like, she was sitting in my lap and I had my hands on her ears like that, and she said she was too scared to shoot it. She knows she didn't get out and shoot that gun. She knows she didn't."
Yet when the Andreacchios' private investigator Max Mayes questioned Jett Miller, he gave a different story.
Jett Miller told the private investigator that she did shoot it.
"I think he was just drunk, he didn't remember. Something like that. I don't know," said Matt Miller. "I've talked to him and he's like 'Man, I don't even really remember.' That's what he tells me. I'm like, 'Well dude, it's kind of a serious situation.'"
As for all of the calls he got from Christian's phone, Matt Miller says they were calls from Whitley that he never answered. But he did finally speak to her shortly after she was questioned by police.
"So she's telling me this one story, saying that she was asleep on the couch and she heard a gunshot and she ran upstairs and found him," said Miller. "That's what she said first. Then a week went by or so and I asked her, I was like 'So, tell me what really happened. Tell me all the whole situation what happened.' She said 'Well, I fell asleep on the couch, Dylan came back and found Christian and woke me up.' That's what she said the second time, and that's when it really kind of just like 'Whoa.'"
In fact, in a copy of the text exchange between Matt Miller and Whitley, Miller says: "You said nothing about Dylan! You said YOU found him!" Whitley replies: "Dylan didn't ever even go upstairs. Dylan told me to check on him and I did and he was dead."
Again, this contradicts the statements Dylan and Whitley gave to police.
Crime Watch Daily obtained a statement Matt Miller gave to police shortly after Christian's death where he said: "She is a compulsive liar, cheater and she is sneaky."
When asked if he thought Whitley or Dylan killed Christian, he said yes.
"The money," said Miller. "I think it was the money that drove -- yeah."
Remember, Whitley thought Christian had taken out a life-insurance policy.
"When we first started hearing about that 'Oh, she thought she was getting life insurance, that she was a beneficiary on a policy,' I was like 'What 20-year-old, 21-year-old is talking about getting life insurance?' I know I wasn't when I was 20 or 21," said Rae Andreacchio.
Apparently, Dylan Swearingen thought so too. He even went to speak with Christian's grandfather about it.
"He went and he asked, said that Whitley's mother, her grandmother, had sent him over to find out when the life insurance was going to pay out because she needed a car, because, you know, she didn't have Christian's anymore," said Rae.
Crime Watch Daily went down to Mississippi to try to get more answers.
Three years after Christian Andreacchio's suspicious suicide, it seems like the Andreacchio family finally caught a break. Meridian, Mississippi replaced police chief James Lee, and a new detective was assigned to look at the mountain of evidence the family has gathered to prove this was a murder.
According to private investigator Max Mayes, it appeared justice was finally within reach.
"He did a thorough, unbiased investigation and his conclusion was, according to what he had told us, this was a homicide," said Mayes.
Did the detective document that?
"I'm not sure," said Mayes. "We've talked with him but he says this is not a suicide, this is a homicide. Matter of fact he got warrants for the arrest of the two individuals of whom we speak."
Those two individuals are Whitley Goodman and Dylan Swearingen, and Crime Watch Daily talked directly to Judge R. Jones, who told us he did indeed sign active warrants for both of them to be arrested for murder. If these are active warrants, why aren't these two in custody?
"I have no idea," said Todd Andreacchio, Christian's father. "It's not up to me. If it was up to me they would have been in custody three years ago."
It's the burning question. And the answer, according to the Mississippi Today newspaper: The new chief of police in Meridian asked for the murder charges to be reduced to manslaughter with culpable negligence, claiming they don't have enough evidence to get murder charges through a preliminary hearing.
Both Judge R. Jones and the family refused to comment. So despite the warrants, neither Whitley Goodman or Dylan Swearingen have been arrested or charged in Christian Andreacchio's death.
"We feel like it's going to take someone outside the state of Mississippi, someone who isn't in politics, has nothing to lose or gain in order to get to the bottom of this," said Rae Andreacchio, Christian's mother.
In our own effort to get to the bottom of this, Crime Watch Daily hit the back roads of Meridian in search of Dylan and Whitley. Whitley was not at home.
Finally, we spotted Dylan. He refused to answer questions and told our crew to leave.
Crime Watch Daily wasn't able to connect with Whitley Goodman in person, but she did have a lot to say in a late-night Facebook conversation. According to Whitley, she has "Never even been named a suspect. The arrest warrants they claim are out there have never been activated, but were simply written up to shut Rae up."
In fact, Whitley Goodman claims that all Rae Andreacchio has done is "publish lies and try to get money and attention from her own son's death."
As for the forensic evidence that concludes Christian's death was homicide, she said: "If anything was up with the ballistics or the body positioning, I would be in jail."
She goes on to write: "I can tell you he killed himself and so can his threatening texts while he was STATES away."
After refusing our request for an interview, she went on to emphasize that: "there are not active warrants for me and Dylan. If you publish that, it's false information."
And finally, her parting shot: "There's a special place in hell for people like you!"
For now, the Andreacchio family is waiting to find out whether or not the U.S. Attorney will agree to review -- and hopefully, prosecute -- the case.
"Quite frankly I just want her arrested," said Rae Andreacchio. "She's running around at the beach and posting on Instagram and living her life."
"I truly grieve for this family," said attorney Cynthia Speetjens. "The murder or the death, no matter what, of your child, there's a life before that day, and there's a life after that day, and you throw in that he just wanted to end his own life -- that's just beyond the pale."
"They've done all this with this case. We've got experts, nationally known experts saying that this is a staged suicide, this is a homicide," said Todd Andreacchio. "What else have they done with other cases? If they'll do that with this, with us fighting this hard, what have they done that nobody's called them on? We need help around here, I believe."