Episode Four: A Troubled Childhood
Episode Four: A Troubled Childhood
But I have the same dream every year around the anniversary of it. Um, what happened? Um, um, I see them like picking the guy up from his grandpa's house, my grandparents, um, and then riding out to Braylee pond. And then I see like when they get out, it's just a very solemn, like the mood. The setting is just very, very emotional. Very. It's like there was no way that the kid didn't know what was about to happen. Um, my brother was really, uh, I don't want to say just intoxicated. He was definitely, um, on some kind of substances, so he wasn't himself. But mainly what I see is once everything started in, the guy was actually stabbing Chris. My brother was sitting halfway up the stairs crying. Um, like he, he, and he was scared afterwards, like the guy was gonna get him to, you know, um, it's a very intense, very emotional dream.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR My name is Charlie Moss and I’ve been a freelance journalist and writer for more than 10 years. I’ve written for The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, Vice, The Bitter Southerner, and other publications. I also used to work for an online camping magazine called The Dyrt. It was there that I wrote about a haunted campground just outside of Staunton, Virginia. The more I dug into the story, the more I realized that this wasn’t just a simple Halloween ghost tale. It was something much more profound than I ever imagined. And I’ve spent the last two years finding out as much as I can about What Happened at Braley Pond.
This is episode four - A Troubled Childhood
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR That was Seth Tinsley’s sister Stephanie, describing a dream she’s had every year around the anniversary of Chris Kennedy’s murder.
Gang-related violence was rampant across Virginia in the early 2000s. According to an October 21, 2003 article by the Associated Press, there were 10 nationally-known gangs in Virginia at the time, including the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, and MS-13. In Fairfax County alone, just 30 minutes outside of Washington D.C., 82 subsets of these gangs had been reported during that period. Fears that gang violence would spread across the Shenandoah Valley into suburbs and rural areas were proving to be very real. It had gotten so bad that after Chris Kennedy’s murder, the state Attorney General at the time, Jerry Kilgore, started an anti-gang task force, calling the crime a wake-up call, according to a Staunton newspaper report.
GINNY NEWMAN Um, so the gang problems that hit this area were before, um, uh, Chris's death at Brealey pond. Um, there was actually a murder and I don't remember timelines right now, I'm sorry, but there was a murder of, um, a young girl that was gang related, um, from our area. Um, and I believe her body was dumped up towards the Augusta County Rockingham County line. Um, so that was the first time that people started to kind of stand up and take notice.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR This is Ginny Newman, director of the Central Shenandoah Valley Office on Youth, which was one of many area organizations that partnered with Kilgore’s anti-gang taskforce at the time.
GINNY NEWMAN Um, there was a lot of tagging going on in Waynesboro city and Stanton city and some in Augusta County. Um, and so people were complaining to the police. Uh, then we had a couple of other murders that occurred, um, in Stanton city and it became obvious as this group was kind of pulling together that they needed to do something much quicker
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR That something was called the S.A.W. Coalition, an acronym for Staunton, Augusta and Waynesboro. Jenny and others were tasked with educating teachers, school counselors, and other local citizens on what gang activity looked like in the area - tagging, gang signs and symbols, colors, and things like that.
GINNY NEWMAN At one point I believe our coalition, uh, you know, at a monthly meeting would have 40, 50 people in the room from the region of professionals coming together saying, what are we going to do next? How do, how do we get out there? How do we put out materials to educate the community? Um, and we started doing training sessions, um, and in the midst of that was, uh, the murder at Braylee pond as well.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Christopher Kennedy’s father, Jeff, never knew his son was in a gang.
JEFF KENNEDY the last, the last nine months that he was alive. He spent away from me. He was living with his friends. Cause that's what was important to him was his friends and that's, who's actually killed them. Was his friends. Um,
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR I’ll be honest here. Of all the people I’ve interviewed for this piece, Jeff Kennedy was the one I was most nervous about. I wasn’t sure what kind of response, if any, I’d get from him when requesting to talk to him. And how would I explain to Jeff what this podcast is about without disrespecting the memory of his son? It took me months to build up the courage to reach out to him. I decided to text him first, just to see if he’d be up for chatting. It turns out, he didn’t mind sharing stories about Christopher, or as he calls him, Chris Scott.
JEFF KENNEDY Um, he was, he was, he was a good looking kid. He wasn't very, uh, as far as IQ level, as like, he, at least he got a degree to completion where I did progress years school, but he actually has like a sixth grade education and he was really good at covering it up. Even as teachers didn't know, he went into very regular classes.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Jeff and Christopher’s mother, Peggy, divorced when Christopher was just a kid. Peggy was the product of incest, and Jeff attributes that to Chris’ low IQ.
JEFF KENNEDY his, his mother when I, we, we, we first started seeing each other. I was attracted to her because of her looks not because of her brains. She didn't have to like, they all, she was like the middle child at 12, uh, her mother, which has now passed, passed away. I'm not sure where she's buried at, but she had, 12 kids all about three different brothers.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR If you didn’t catch that, Jeff said that Peggy’s mother had 12 kids total, all who were fathered by her three brothers.
Jeff remarried after his divorce from Peggy, and claims that when it came to raising their son, he and his new wife were polar opposite in their child-rearing methods.
JEFF KENNEDY Um, the girl but she was very soft with her when I was very strict with him because she was so soft, he would, uh, he was always running around. He meant, well, he's wanting to be happy. You wouldn't try to get in trouble, but he seemed to always get in trouble all the time. Like the boys he'd hang around with, at school, he got caught one time stealing cigarettes out of the store. So he got a little bit of trouble for that.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Jeff also told me that Chris has a half-sister born a few years after him, who currently lives in Harrison, Virginia. He believes the girl’s father was Peggy’s brother.
Christopher’s mother Peggy died of cancer when he was 12. After she passed away, Christopher received an inheritance from her that his father put into a savings account under Christopher’s name. When Christopher was old enough to move out and live on his own, it would be there waiting for him. Until then, Christopher lived with his father Jeff. But they had a hard time getting along, and their relationship suffered when Christopher hit his teenage years. When he turned 18, they had a big falling out and Christopher moved in briefly with his Uncle Roy.
JEFF KENNEDY And he had an uncle named Roy and found out about the money that Chris got, had a savings account. So Roy talked Chris Scott, into coming and living with him. And then when the money ran out, he kicked Chris out. So it wouldn't, we're in a very good situation. So he was a little the streets he's Oh, he was living in the living. Yeah. He wasn't that. Well, he was crashing on people's couches and what he was doing. He go from one house, stay with somebody for awhile. If they walk them out and they go crash to somebody else's couch.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Christopher, in other words, was homeless. And the company he kept during this time would take him down a path that would eventually lead to his murder.
JEFF KENNEDY the last, the last nine months that he was alive. He spent away from me. He was living with his friends. Cause that's what was important to him was his friends and that's, who's actually killed them. Was his friends.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR One of those friends was Seth Tinsley.
SETH TINSLEY I met Chris and he was working at... He worked at McDonald's over by the mall, which is right across the street from where I live. Kennedy did not have any friends when, uh, before this situation happened, uh, Chris Kennedy was bullied by a lot of people in Stanton because Chris Kennedy was a little bit slow. And if people just get hungry, people would get him to hang around so they could pick on ale and stuff like that.
SETH TINSLEY I met him by him coming out and then just a group of kids out there and start picking on him and stuff, top booed up on and told him to leave the fuck alone. Blahzay blahzay blah. I pulled a knife out. Everybody ran away. I told him, I said, man, come hang out with me man.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR So Chris did. Seth took him to his townhouse and they hung out for a couple of hours before Christopher’s cousin Kenny showed up.
SETH TINSLEY Kenny was like, what's my cousin doing here? Cause I got your cousin. He's like, yeah, well that's cool. Then he's already family fucking, you know, because at that time, for me, the gang life was these, these are my, my brothers and my sisters.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Seth describes Christopher’s gang initiation, which sounds a lot like a fraternity hazing.
SETH TINSLEY This is my family. I would die for these people. I would do anything for these people. This is no, so I have no, we got him to join him by joining in. I know we went to a random location, 36 seconds, you had to stay. And then this six is what they call it, which is basically everybody standing in the shape of a star. David, uh, everybody's had a point and when they say go for 36 seconds, we run in and beat the shit out of his ass. And once that 36 seconds is up, he's now a member of did GED.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR As Seth talks about Christopher, there’s a sadness in his voice. I can tell how much Seth really still cares for him, despite what happened.
SETH TINSLEY But he didn't have a lot of people that actually cared or liked him for that matter. His family didn't even care about him before it even happened. Like I said, me and him hung out every day for like the last six months of his life.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR When I first reached out to Seth for an interview, I didn’t expect him to respond. I mean, who would want to rehash such a turbulent time in their lives with a total stranger, especially while they’re still serving time. It turns out, Seth did, but he was hesitant.
I understood his skepticism and knew I needed to earn his trust. So over the next few months, Seth and I wrote letters back and forth to each other. I explained about my podcast, and he asked me questions about it, trying to gain a sense of my sincerity in telling a fair story about what happened at Braley Pond in 2003. He eventually agreed, and over the course of making this podcast, we’ve talked over the phone several times, exchanged numerous emails, and he even suggested I chat with his mother and his sister, which I did.
As I mentioned in episode two, Seth is serving 25 years at Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap, Virgina, for his role in Christopher Kennedy’s murder. He’s been in prison for 18 years.
SETH TINSLEY that's a Brighton now it's 2027. But juvenile parole just became a law, which means I can come home probably in the next two or three years.
Yeah. I'm, I'm doing my best to stay on a couple. I'm not trying to get in the middle of anything and stuff like that
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR I find talking with Seth incredibly easy. I’ll admit, I’ve never spoken with a convicted murderer before, so I was nervous. I expected him to be difficult, uncooperative, void of any kind of details about the crime he committed, and his feelings about it. But I was wrong. Seth seems like a nice guy...you know, for someone who’s in prison for murder.
Charlie MOSS What, um, what was it like when you first got in there? Like, you know, was it,
SETH TINSLEY it was bad. This was back when you dependent countries was uh, basically operated in the old way. There was no cameras, so there was no rules and regulations on anything as long as they can. Anybody see nothing. And uh, a lot of the older prisons were still open at that time and the older prisons had a lot of blind spots. Like you couldn't even go to commerce and come back from commissary by yourself. You had to have two or three friends with you because if you came back on commissary or back commissary by yourself back then pick up kids with being a stairwell waiting to stab you and take your compensation.
I had a few instances where I had to do a couple of things like bad, someone's head open because he told me the first chance he got, he was going to wait. So the first hand got, God, I fucking cracked the Stoller. I'm going a couple of locks.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Seth tells me he’s trying to take advantage of what the prison has to offer regarding education and job training. But there’s a lot lacking.
SETH TINSLEY Yeah, I'm trying to, uh, I'm trying to pick up as much schooling as I possibly can. Um, I'm definitely trying to take advantage of the system because schooling spree here, so I'm trying, if I can to pick up at least one or two more trades before I leave the penitentiary. No, and most of the schooling here is trade school. You know,
there's a, there's no actual college courses here. That's something that I would have to do through the mail if I was interested in it.
I'm, I'm able and capable to do bangs book-wise and uh, fighting wise I just do not like to write. I'm a more of a physical type person. I want to be working a backhoe or building a building underneath the hood of a car or something like that. That's the stuff that I truly enjoy.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Seth grew up in Staunton. According to his mom, Kimberly Tinsley, he was smart and resourceful, with a kind heart.
KIMBERLY TINSLEY Um, here's a, here's a prime example of what Seth was like. There was a secondhand confinement or a block from the house and at nine years old, he went in, he looked around the entire shop and he found this small porcelain figure of a puppy curled up, like as in sleep and he offered to sweep the man's floors in exchange for that porcelain figurine so that he could give it to me as a gift. And I still have that little part that you, by the way. Um, I definitely do. So, and this is like almost 25 years ago, um, and Seth practiced the fine art of negotiation with everyone from a very early age. So he would go in and, and do chores for this man in exchange for things to give as gifts to his family members. And, but no, that's a pretty good representation of, of his personality as every young child coming up.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Seth’s younger sister, Stephanie Brown, remembers him having a bit of a wild streak. But he was also a good big brother to her.
STEPHANIE BROWN he was more, more of like my dad honestly, cause my dad wasn't around. We have the same mom and different dads. Um, and he taught me how to tie my shoes, how build a tree house, everything cool.
He made sure that I would eat most easy. He would make sure that I got to school everything. Yeah. And once we were getting older, he definitely took care of me a lot.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Seth’s home life wasn’t exactly pleasant, though. His mother drank a lot, did drugs, wasn’t around much for him and his sister Stephanie.
SEITH TINSLEY My mom, my mom was a functioning alcoholic. She drank like a fish out of water. Like, uh, she had, we would have a case of beer and like 22 or are 20 deuce deuces of a chorus light before the end of the day. All that stuff so gone. But she still looks like she's sober. But when it came to drugs, that's where she really spiraled down Hill cause she was really strung out on Coke and methamphetamine.
STEPHANIE BROWN I definitely think that my mom is responsible for a lot of what have the situation with my brother. Yeah. I definitely feel that it wasn't there for him at all and she is a main reason why he grew up like having to be responsible, but also, you know, she pushed drugs in his face and things like that. Alcohol and it face all the time. So I mean, he wouldn't have been that kind of wild child if it wasn't for, for her to begin with.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Growing up, Seth was really close to his father, who died at the end of 2019. His dad worked as a diesel mechanic and taught Seth to work on cars.
SETH TINSLEY Yeah. I had a 79, uh, Fastback Mustang when I got rocked up.
CHARLIE MOSS I bet that thing was fast.
SETH TINSLEY Well, it was a, no, it was a little forced down dirt. But, uh, I paid $450 for when I first bought it and it didn't run it all. The poor boys from Western Howard, they would say junk bread. They would start the pet project of mind. Like, my dad wanted to see me build a car basically from scratch. And so we spent fucking six months on it working on his car. It was pretty cool.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Seth has five sisters and three brothers. But out of all of them, Seth and his father had the strongest bond.
SETH TINSLEY I've always been my dad's favorite and he always had, uh, the highest expectations of me. Even after everything happened. He still expected me to become something better than any of his other children cause he felt like I had the intelligence level to, to become something great.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Despite his good relationship with his dad, Seth’s mother’s drug and alcohol abuse was taking a toll on him. He began acting out, hanging out with the wrong crowd, getting into trouble, which put a strain on his relationship with his father. Seth was then sent to juvenile. This would prove to be the breaking point for his dad.
When Seth came back home, he got his GED and started working. He was making $300 every other week and giving half of it to his dad for rent. Because of this, Seth felt like he could come and go as he pleased. But because he was under age, his father felt differently. So Seth threatened to move out. After coming home from a party that same night, Seth found his bags packed on the porch. His father had kicked him out.
SETH TINSLEY I asked him to move back in a few times when stuff got really rough cause there was a while there where I was living or a need for bridge and uh, I asked him if I could move back in and he told me no and he was sympathy for my situation. You basically said I brought it upon myself so you know,
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR I ask Seth how he was recruited into the Gangsta Disciples, or GDs, as he refers to them. Turns out, it’s all because of a stabbing at a party. To be accurate, Seth was the one who had gotten stabbed. Yeah...that must have been one wild party.
SETH TINSLEY I had gotten stabbed at a party and, uh, when I got out the hospital, I threw a party. Like when I had gotten scared of death, my lung had been collapsed and stuff like that and I wasn't expected just five because I bled out so far. Before I got to the hospital, they drove me to AMC and then flew me to UVA. And, uh, when I got out the hospital I was like, I'm a lot of, let's just throw a celebration for that. And so through celebration and when, uh, through the celebration I met the GDS and they look like a nice tight knit group that had each other's backs and stuff like that. And at that time I didn't have nobody like that. I didn't really have a family, I didn't have a crew to have my back. And I looked at it like the comradery of it all, the fact that people hold you down no matter what, right, wrong or indifferent, they're going to be there for you. Stuff like that. And I was like, yeah, that's something that I want to be a part of. But I, like I said, at that time I was 16 years old, so it wasn't like I knew any better, you know.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Here’s Ginny Newman again, with the Central Shenandoah Valley Office on Youth.
GINNY NEWMAN Um, no, not necessarily. Um, gangs flourish as a replacement for a family. It's a replacement for a need that an individual has. So if you're not getting, if you're not getting what you need from your community, um, if you're not getting what you need from your family, and I guess I should start with the family first and your school system and then your community, if you don't feel like you belong in any of those, you're going to seek out where you can fit in. And gangs are a family. They are very, very good at identifying the individual that feels a little bit lost a little bit for Lauren, um,
they still may not help you with what you're struggling with
but they're going to fulfill you
and you feel like you belong.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Seth’s sister Stepahnie remembers when he first joined the GDs.
STEPHANIE BROWN Um, I think it was like, I think he was acting out. I think it was, um, a lot of like peer pressure, the people he was hanging out with. Um, it wasn't, it wasn't really his thing because he's not, he's always been like the alpha male, you know, he's not a follower and, um, he doesn't, he didn't ever really have like one set group of friends that he would hang out with. So it was different for him. I don't think that it was, uh, something that he had planned on doing or even really wanted to do.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR As Seth told me about his time growing up, I found myself relating to him. I came from a similar dysfunctional background. My dad left my twin sister and me when we were born, and we didn’t meet him until we were around 18. Four years later, he died. My mom was an alcoholic; thankfully, she’s recovered now. But there was a lot of instability in our lives. Unlike Seth’s mom, she was not a functioning alcoholic. When she drank, it destroyed our lives, over and over again. She’d start drinking after being sober a few months, start writing bad checks, commit some identity fraud, get arrested, lose her job, her apartment, her car, and then wind up homeless. Then she’d get arrested again, sober up, get back on her feet, and do it all over again. I remember times finding her passed out on the bed,unresponsive. When my sister and I were five, we moved in with my aunt, who was strict. Though I never got into the kind of trouble Seth, or even Chris did, I floundered in school, to the point where my aunt feared for my future. After getting into an argument over her threatening to charge me rent because I had flunked out of college at 18, I moved out. So yeah, to an extent, I get it.
Despite their differences, though, after Seth was arrested for Chris’ murder, his dad was there for him.
SEITH TINSLEY when I got locked up on his charge, I guess, and in a way he didn't want to believe that I had anything to do with it, you know, so, and he, he hired a lawyer to help me out and, uh, he hired a private investigator to look into the matter and, uh, you know, uh, he believed that I had been set up, which, I mean, I kind of had been, but not overtly.
It was some, it was in a roundabout way. But, uh, he just, I mean, he refused to see the bad.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR It’s interesting here that Seth claims to have been set up, at least kind of set up. If that’s the case, it sounds like there had to have been some pretty elaborate planning going on behind the scenes. And what was the motive? What did Christopher Kennedy do to piss off his fellow gang members and lose his life over it?
Seth befriended Christopher because, initially, he felt sorry for him. Seth took it upon himself to defend Christoopher when essentially, no one else would. And they became tight. Here’s Seth’s mom, Kimberly Tinsley again talking about Christopher and Seth’s blooming friendship.
KIMBERLY TINSLEY He was quite easy going, um, and actually very charming and charismatic. And Chris kind of fit into that niche. Well, they became really good friends. Chris was not as mentally bright as Seth, but whatever offset them tended to compliment their relationship as friends.
We're very close. Um, to the point Chris stated on the house quite a lot and even his laundry was even mixed in with the rest of the household laundry, how often he was there. And, and it just, one of the things that made that event so hard on inc is so, so difficult was that not only did I lose my son to the criminal justice system, I lost an extended member of our family to this murder.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Seth was the youngest member of the Gangsta Disciples, one of three local gang affiliations in the Staunton and Greater Augusta County area at the time.
SETH TINSLEY Up until probably about 2000, that's when the mainstream games came along. But before then we had a lot of local games and stuff right there. Just people going around getting stuff, destroying property and stuff like that. There's a lot of fist fights. A lot of fist fights.
Yeah, 2003, there was a lot of murders in 2003 and a lot of them were gang related and a lot of them after that were gang related. And uh, when, and basically the mainstream games that hit there was the Crips, the GDS and the bloods. And everybody that was in those gangs in that area didn't actually know the meaning behind that stuff. Nothing like that. They just knew, all right, I'm going to blow up people, Crips and genie. I'm a GED. I before Crips and bloods, I'm a Crip. I beef with GDS and blood, you know, and so anytime you've seen someone wearing different colored bandana, it was basically a ward, you know, and a lot of people died for that.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Here’s Kevin Robertson again, Christopher’s childhood friend, about the gang situation in the Staunton area back in 2003
KEVIN ROBERTSON The gang activity around here was terrible. Terrible, terrible. But life's too short. I'm telling you show up. God never, even once, once even thought about, you know, talking about a gang or even hanging out with the kind of people just, but when he got LFR that day, he had a bandana around his head and then the other boys had man. I said, no, no, no, no, come with me. Huh? I shouldn't have just met. I should have just put him in a headlock, choked him out and throwing him in my truck. I just want to share with them. I hate myself for it.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Not only had Christopher joined a gang, but he was also on drugs. I ask Kevin why he thinks Christopher got involved in gang life. He believes it was because of a girl.
KEVIN ROBERTSON She was involved with them, drugs of drugs. So I guarantee it when he got on them drugs right then and there, he liked it so much. He wouldn't do it again. Do it again and do it again.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Kevin’s a former drug addict himself so he knows the effect drugs had on his friend.
KEVIN ROBERTSON like I find a lot, you know, I'm a recovering addict myself. I used to be bad, bad, bad, bad, really bad. I mean where I have to, you know, I never had to hurt anyone to actually get my high, but you know, being the youngest of four boys, you know, I never had to worry about paying for it or because my brothers always got high. So after you, after you get high one time, especially with methamphetamine, you going to want it again?
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Ginny Newman talks about the role gangs play when it comes to drugs in the Staunton and larger Shenandoah Valley area.
GINNY NEWMAN we are in unfortunately, a prime location for, um, multiple types of trafficking with, um, 81, um, interstate 81 and 64. We are in a crossroads for, um, Florida to Washington DC, to New York city back down to Texas, Arizona, and over to California. Um, so cartels from Mexico can easily, um, also come this direction, uh, with, with some of that. And we know that they use gangs to move those things often.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR According to local news reports, fellow gang members were suspicious that Christopher wanted to get out of the gang, and that he might go to the police to snitch on all of the illegal activity that was going on within the GDs. There was also a rumor that he had made sexual advances toward the gang queen, Candace Knott, possibly even sleeping with her.
Here’s Seth Tinsley again.
SETH TINSLEY So what Kenny started getting to the point where like, he didn't want to be a member of the gang anymore. He didn't want to be around around the stuff
CHARLIE MOSS then put it out there. Huh? Is Chris that you're talking about?
SETH TINSLEY Yeah, Christopher Scott Kennedy. I uh, I called him Kenny, my bad. Uh, yeah, I used to call him Scott and he went by Scott. But uh, he started acting like he didn't want to be a member of the gang anymore. And a couple of few other things happen. Like candy said that she, he had forced himself on her and had raped her and stuff like that. And there was this long drawn out conversation in the kitchen one night about what should we do about him. And Kenny and candy were the main contributors to the conversation because at that time they were the highest ranking members that were not locked up. So they decided that Kenny needed to die.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Again, Seth meant Christopher Kennedy, not Kenny. Kenny is Christopher's cousin I mentioned back in episode 2...Kenneth “Sniper” Jackson, the guy Seth told Chris was in the hospital to lure him into Kolani Noa’s car so they could take him to Braley Pond. So, just to confirm your suspicions, Kenny was never in the hospital. It was all just a trap.
Christopher’s body was discovered by a fisherman the morning after his murder. Here’s Kevin Robertson.
KEVIN ROBERTSON Um, uh, fishermen, um, uh, I don't know, fishermen. Just one morning decided to go fishing down there. And um, it's all body floating boat in the water. He was stripped naked.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Here’s Seth talking about getting arrested after local police traced the murder back to him and and Kolani Noa.
SETH TINSLEY Um, the fisherman who found the body the next day reported it. And when they reported the body, his one again off again, girlfriend told the police that we were the last persons that were seen with him, that we had picked him up in the truck. So when they come in, they kicked in the apartment, they arrested us.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Kevin Robertson has a friend that witnessed the whole thing.
KEVIN ROBERTSON And actually my buddy lives right down in work. He said, dude, I've never seen so many cops in my wife. He's a dude. They were just flying by. I mean, I was like, Oh my God, you guys later. Oh, SWAT team raided a house. That's how long it took them to figure it out. 38 hours.
SETH TINSLEY When they arrest us, they put the truck up on the rollback. So the way I'm looking at it is that this, at this juncture, the entire situation, the way everything's going down and as long as everybody remained silent, there's no way possible that we can be tried or convicted on this murder. It's not possible. They have the wrong vehicle. They have no physical evidence. They have no testimony. No. So they've got me in an interrogation room. I'm being interrogated. I'm telling them that I have no knowledge of his situation. I'm telling him, I don't even know Scott. You know, they pop up a couple of hours later, they haven't got an evidence bag with a knife in it, another evidence bag with a bunch of ashes in it where no one had been testifying against everything and told them that this is where we got rid of all this stuff.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Four people were ultimately convicted of Chris Kennedy’s murder - Candace Nicole Knott, who was 20 at the time, Kenneth “Sniper” Jackson, also 20, 24-year-old Kalani “Flip” Noa and Seth Tinsley, who was 17. All four of them are still serving time in prison for their actions. Bradford Knot III, Candace’s husband who was serving time in jail for other crimes at the time, was never convicted. He’s still locked up as well.
Here’s Jeff Kennedy, Chris’ father, on how he heard about Chris’ death.
JEFF KENNEDY Uh, last nine months that I was alive, he's distant from me. I said he was, he was living around all his friends and stuff, sleep on our couches and he, where he's working at McDonald's at that time up on Avenue. And, um, that's how I found out. I didn't go up there and talk to his friends and stuff. The people who work with every Donald, I didn't think much of them neither, but they gave me the answers to what, what was going on.
The police had no idea what happened. And I found out who killed him from talking to his friends, had one friend, Matt had another friend, one friend would tell me one piece of advice. You know, what part of the story and other friend would tell me another part of the story. And I, I put two and two together and came up with the answer. Cause the cops didn't find out who killed them. I found out who killed, who killed him. And that passed that information onto the cops. And they arrested him.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Seth expresses remorse to me for Christopher’s mmurder. He tells me about the meth he was on at the time, and basically, just how fucked up he was back then.
SETH TINSLEY Oh, um, I don't know if you've ever done methamphetamines, but it is a hell of a trigger drug when it comes to emotions and you can go from one extreme to the next and [inaudible] when you're on that drug. So, um, and I was really badly strung out on methamphetamines at the time. I was doing crystal meth really hard. Like when I say really hard, I mean like every day for the entire last year that I was on the street
so, um, one minute you could be like having a conscience about something and the next minute, Oh, I switched this. I don't know how to really put it into words to where you could understand the concept and it's just like, I switch a flip in your head and you'll go from one extreme to the next and a heartbeat, you know?
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR I ask Kimberly about what went through her head when she found out about Chris’ murder.
KIMBERLY TINSLEY Oh my gosh. Um, I, I surely, um, I had this overwhelming feelings three days before Seth was arrested, that something was just so terribly wrong with one of my children. And Seth was the only one that I couldn't make contact with and that was extremely unusual. And then I saw a picture of a tattoo on the front page of the newspaper and that's when I knew that Chris had been murdered and that my son was involved. And I immediately called the police department and asked them if they have my son in custody or, mind you, he had just turned 17, so he was still a mind on and they have him in custody for at least 24 hours and made no contact with me at all, which is totally against the wall, but that's irrelevant. Um, I honestly, it's like as a parent, it's one of those moments of insanity that your mind just cannot wrap itself around. My son's friend was murdered and my son was involved.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Here’s Seth’s sister, Stephnie.
STEPHANIE BROWN And my brother is one of the most, he's one of the most true hearted people that I know in the sense of like, he is what he is. He doesn't claim to be anything that he's not. If he says he did something, he did it. If he says he didn't, I believe in, you know, he's a really good judge of character when it comes to people, you know, he just, my brother is, it's just a really sad situation because he was so young and he didn't deserve to be caught up in all that shit.
SETH TINSLEY even though it happened almost 20 years ago, around my way, this is still a really relevant situation. People still talk about it to this day.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, it’s hard to deny Christopher’s spirit still haunts those lives he touched. Kevin remembers a strange incident that happened to him at Braley Pond after Christopher’s murder.
KEVIN ROBERTSON You know, Chris's death really hit me hard. Like, I mean, fanatical, you know what I mean? We're all yard. Same bus. I mean, I mean grew up. I mean, as brothers and I don't want a parent one night, man. Um, and I got out, walked to the top and then just, you know, just, I don't know, it was about nine 30 and my, Oh, the mother, my shawl called me and says, Oh, I need you.
I need you to come here and you need to check with your daughter. I was like, alright. I said, yeah, I'll see them. I'm coming from. I said, I'm just need time to myself right now. And she's like, well, make time for her. I was like, okay, I'm coming. So I get in the vehicle brand new vehicle and I start, it will not start. It will not start no clicker, no nothing. I'm like, what more? I said, what is going on? Then I sat there and I sat there and I swear, man, it's just, I got cold. I got really, really cold, like ditch chill, just come over me. And in the middle of summer, she'll come over me. Like I've been sitting in a frozen car for about a day, just like, and I just went like this with my head. And next thing I know, and it starts, I said, what on earth? It's like, I don't know. It's like, I don't know if maybe Scott maybe try to grab my hand when he was in the truck with me or something and just, he would not start.
CHARLIE MOSS - NARRATOR Seth, too, feels Christopher’s presence, even after all of these years.
SETH TINSLEY since being in prison, I, I've felt a couple of times where like I've been like, there's been a few instances where like, I was in the home when I was asleep and I'm in the cell by myself, so there's absolutely nothing moving around but me in that cell, you know what I mean? And I'm laying in bed and all of a sudden my cup, your is falling off the shelf and shit. And I get up and I get this feeling like Chris was like, look, I'm just reminding you, I'm still here. I'm not going anywhere.
Gang-related violence was rampant across Virginia in the early 2000s. In this episode, Ginny Newman, director of the Central Shenandoah Valley Office on Youth, talks about the Staunton area’s gang problem during the time of Chris Kennedy’s murder. Seth Tinsley, along with his sister and mother, reflects on his troubled childhood, and Jeff Kennedy, Chris’ father, as well as Kevin Robertson, Chris’s childhood best friend, talk about the path that led him to join a gang, and the choices Chris made that ultimately led to his death.