JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local family is still trying to find out what really happened to a 16-year-old boy found dead in California 18 years ago.
Investigators in San Diego ruled that Curtis Williamson drowned accidentally in 1997, but his family doesn't believe that's how he died.
His relatives believe he was murdered and say they know who the killer is.
Now, they're pushing for a change in state and federal laws governing homicide investigations.
“Curtis is my son. He was murdered 18 years ago, and we are still fighting for justice,” Patricia Ward said. “He was just my child. I mean, he was only 16.”
Police found Williamson's body floating in the water in San Diego. They declared his death an accidental drowning that followed a large fight involving 10 to 20 young men. Despite what detectives concluded, Williamson's family believes he was drowned intentionally.
“A mother knows. It's just -- a good mother just knows,” Ward said.
Williamson's relatives now live in Jacksonville, but they're bringing their fight for answers to the national front by starting a petition for Curtis' Law, which would require authorities to give information that's now considered confidential in death investigations to the victims' families.
“It will help the families with justice and closure by changing the public records laws,” Ward said. “I don't have to get an attorney to find out, to get the public records from the police, the coroner. I don't have to get the records to find out, 'Are they telling the truth about what happened to my child?'”
Under the law, investigators would have 30 days to hand over records, like autopsy and police reports, evidence, and personal belongings, for families to examine for themselves. Under the current system, families must spend time and money trying to gather everything themselves.
“There are so many families right now that just don't have any closure,” said Shanika Williamson, Curtis' sister. “Their sons and daughters are getting murdered. They don't have any closure. It is just so hard to get, because there are so many privacy act laws. There are so many things that say, 'Hey, this is our investigation, you can't be allowed in there.'”
Ward said she is still in pain over losing her son, particularly because she has no closure.
“I just want to help the families not have to go through that, because I know that kind of suffering is like an unimaginable pain not knowing,” Ward said.
Curtis' family members have a petition for the law online and are close to the 1,000 signatures they want before they bring it to lawmakers.
They said U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., is working with them to make Curtis' Law a reality. They're also praying some day police will solve Curtis' case.