LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The death of a 13-year-old boy has accusations swirling around a Kentucky youth minister. James "Jamie" Mitchell was killed in a car crash, but his family is demanding answers after finding out there was much more to the accident than they were first led to believe.
"Jamie wasn't just my son, he was my best friend," said Rebecca Coleman, Jamie's mother. Rebecca has suffered more than one tragedy in the last few weeks.
On June 6 during an overnight outing with a church youth group, Jamie was killed in a terrible car crash. The man who the family says was in charge of a dozen teens during the camping trip was 24-year-old Ronald Derek Coulter, the youth minister at Big Springs Assembly of God Church in Bloomfield. Coulter told police and family members he was driving his Chevy Blazer in which Jamie and a 15-year-old boy were passengers. Coulter allegedly said a deer jumped out on a curvy stretch of Old Bloomfield Road, causing him to swerve.
After the crash, Coulter told Nelson County Sheriff's deputies that Jamie was wearing his seat belt, even though he was thrown from the vehicle. But the coroner later determined there was no seat belt bruising on the teen. Family and friends say Coulter told them the same story as he helped lead Jamie's funeral.
"He said it with so much ease and he was looking out at us with him knowing the whole truth the whole time," said Jim Mitchell, Jamie's father.
But Jamie's family says the whole truth did not come out until three days after the funeral. That's when the 15-year-old boy who was in the vehicle with Jamie and Coulter went to police and told detectives Coulter wasn't driving at the time of the crash - Jamie was. The teen also told Jamie's 14-year-old cousin, Abby Coleman, who was on the trip.
"He said, 'Derek told me at the scene of the crash not to tell anybody because both of them would get into trouble,'" Abby claimed.
Detectives tell WAVE 3 when they questioned Coulter, he admitted making up the story about the deer.
"I thought I left Jamie in the hands of somebody who was going to keep him safe," said Rebecca. What makes it worse for Rebecca is that Coulter is her cousin. "I never thought he would lie to me, and he told me the whole time on the scene he held my son's hand until he let go and I don't even know if that's true."
Jamie's parents hired attorney Tom Clay after other kids told them the youth minister allegedly let other kids drive while he allegedly jumped in the back seat with girls.
"He got in the back with my friend Megan and Patty and let me sit up front," Abby said. "I'm devastated."
"My son didn't even have a chance because everything was a lie and he didn't even get a good funeral over it. It's wrong," said Jim Mitchell.
The family plans to hold another memorial service for Jamie on July 1. Neither Coulter nor the pastor of Big Springs Assembly of God Church have returned our calls.
Nelson County Sheriff's Department officials tell WAVE 3 that Coulter has not been charged with a crime, but they have turned over their findings to prosecutors. Terry Geoghegan, Commonwealth Attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit serving Hart, LaRue and Nelson Counties, tells WAVE 3 he's carefully reviewing the case and may hand it over to a grand jury next month.