Knox DA's Office: Prosecution in teen overdose death not possible

6:27 PM, Jul 22, 2011   |    comments
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Nearly 14 months after the death of Henry Granju, an 18-year-old who died of a drug overdose, Knox County officials said, despite ongoing pressure from his family, prosecution in his case is not possible at this time, and the "investigation is inactive."

Earlier this week, Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols sent a letter to the family, saying there was not "sufficient admissible evidence" for prosecution in the case.

Then, on Thursday, the Knox County Sheriff's Office released the investigative file to the family and to the media. 10News has now reviewed the file, which includes hundreds of pages of reports, interviews, phone records, E-911 calls and dash cam video.

The tragedy surrounding Granju's death began to unfold on April 25, 2010, when officials said he was robbed and beaten during a failed drug deal.

But it was not until the morning of April 27 that he was discovered unconscious by Yolanda Harper and Randall Houser.

In a call to E-911, Harper described some of Granju's injuries.

"He won't wake up, he's burning up, I took his, I mean, he has, his lips were like he threw up or something, but his fingertips look blue, and he feels like he's got a fever of 100 and something," she told the 911 operator.

Granju was transported to the University of Tennessee Medical Center, where he spent the next month, until his death on May 31, 2010.

Granju's mother, Katie Granju, along with his father, Chris Granju, have since led an effort to put pressure on both the Knox County Sheriff's Office and Knox County District Attorney's Office to investigate and prosecute the case.

In a summary, the district attorney's office reported looking at five major factors for possible prosecution.

1) Prosecutors investigated whether any of the suspects who reportedly beat Granju while robbing him of drugs could be charged with felony murder.

When Granju first went to the hospital, his family first thought he had a skull fracture because of a beating two days before, but he never reported the crime and refused treatment.

Later, the medical examiner determined there was no evidence of a fracture, and his other symptoms were likely caused by an overdose on opiates. His death was ruled accidental.

2) The second possible charge was second-degree murder, focusing on those who supplied Granju with drugs.

For that, prosecutors said they would have needed evidence of a specific drug or drugs, given to him by a specific person or people, with toxicity reports to back it up.

A urine test showed Granju had multiple drugs in his system, including cocaine, marijuana and benzodiazepines, which includes Valium and Xanax.

A blood sample that could have detected opiates was thrown out after seven days, per hospital policy, so investigators could not use it as evidence.

3) Next, officials looked into prosecuting those accused of delaying treatment for Granju.

Randall Houser and Yolanda Harper discovered Granju unconscious on the morning he went to the hospital.

A review of phone records and E-911 calls revealed it was just 16 minutes after the couple discovered Granju that emergency crews were called.

The medical examiner later said, by that point, it would have been too late to save the teen anyway.

4) Prosecutors looked into charging the suspects who reportedly stole drugs from Granju with robbery.

However, they said no witnesses ever stepped forward, so they had only statements from the suspects, who pointed the finger at each other.

5) Finally, authorities considered claims that Harper and Houser pushed Granju into prostitution in exchange for drugs.

After interviewing Granju's girlfriend and her reviewing her phone calls to Harper from jail, they determined there was not enough evidence to support this charge.

Katie Granju had not yet looked at the entire file by Friday afternoon but said, based on what she had read in the summary and heard from others, she was not pleased at the conclusions.

"That summary, if it's reflective of the whole report, is full of half-truths, lies of omission and flat-out untruths," she said. "There were interviews left undone. I've already had one witness contact me today to tell me that she can't believe what the sheriff's office says she told them in her interview."

Katie Granju also pointed out that, in the nearly 14 months since her son's death, she has yet to meet personally with either the detective assigned to her son's case or the sheriff, despite what she says have been numerous requests.

Meanwhile, 10News contacted Knox County Sheriff J.J. Jones for comment.

"The thoroughness of the file speaks for itself," he said.

A spokesman for the district attorney's office had a similar response.

Katie Granju also has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Harper and Houser, claiming they did not act quickly enough to help her son and gave him methadone.

Katie Granju previously worked at WBIR, Ch. 10. News Director Bill Shory has written a letter explaining the decisions 10News has made in covering this case.

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