Bates County family believes daughter’s death didn’t get the full investigation she deserved

BUTLER, Mo. -- It happened in a shed behind a farm house in rural Bates County -- about 20 miles south of Butler. That's where 30-year-old Christin Mae Radford was found. Lifeless. Hanged to death.

The Jackson County medical examiner ruled her death a suicide, but those who knew Radford best believe she was murdered.

"The sheriff flat out told us he had never dealt with a hanging," said Radford's father Danny Wilson.

"If there was nobody out there qualified they should have roped it off and called somebody in who was qualified. That is what we think. I want to see justice. "

Bates County Sheriff Chad Anderson believes those are words of a distraught father -- unable to accept that his daughter took her own life. However, the investigation surrounding Radford's death has more than just the parents concerned.

"I would say there is work that needs to be done," said former FBI Special Agent Michael Tabman, whom FOX 4 asked to review the investigative notes the Bates County Sheriff's Department gave to Radford's parents. Based strictly on that file, Tabman said law enforcement could have done a more thorough job investigating her death.

"Again, I wouldn't say this is indication of a murder in an of itself," Tabman said. "You have to verify what people tell you. It's not a matter of believing or disbelieving. It's a matter of verifying."

Before Bates County sheriff's deputies arrived, Radford's body had been cut down from the shed's rafters and moved outside. According to a department report, it was Radford's boyfriend Ryan Gabriel who found her hanging. He said he screamed for help, but neighbors, who told FOX 4 they often heard the couple fighting, said they never heard anything that evening. No neighbors were ever interviewed by law enforcement.

The sheriff's department also conducted no interview with the friend who Radford's boyfriend said he was frog hunting with during the time Radford took her own life.

"If I said I went with you frogging that should be checked out," Tabman said. "You were frogging and your clothes were dirty. Can I see the clothes? I would do an analysis of the mud and compare that to the mud there. It doesn't mean that somebody committed murder, but it has to be explained."

Sheriff Anderson said his deputies could tell from the rope marks around Radford's neck that she took her own life. He said that evidence was far stronger than anything anyone could have told them.

The Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office appeared to back that up by ruling the death a suicide. But a forensics expert, who reviewed the autopsy at FOX 4's request, told us no autopsy is 100-percent certain. He said determining the cause of death relies as much on a police investigation as the medical evidence.

The forensics expert, who did not want to be identified, agreed that much of the autopsy is consistent with a hanging. What wasn't consistent was a large bruise on Radford's forehead. Our expert also said that suicide by hanging can often take several hours before death occurs. Yet Radford's boyfriend told sheriff's deputies that he saw Radford just an hour earlier.

FOX 4 tried to talk to Radford's boyfriend, but he never returned our phone calls. Sheriff Anderson said he was confident in the findings of his officers and of the Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office.

But Radford's family remains unconvinced. They believe the sheriff's department dismissed their daughter's death as unimportant because their family has no status in the community, and their daughter had a history of drug abuse. In fact, she had both drugs and alcohol in her system at the time of her death.

"We are just the Wilsons," said Radford's father. "We don't matter."

But the Wilsons said they won't rest until they feel their daughter's death receives the attention they believe she deserved.