Friends of a Royal Palm Beach teenager found dead in a retention pond Christmas Day gathered with leaders of the Haitian American community at the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center on Friday, Jan. 7 to call for a full investigation into the troubling incident.
Samuel Pierre with the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network said that the unexplained death of 14-year-old Vensly Maxime of Royal Palm Beach needs additional attention from the community.
Maxime, a Crestwood Middle School student, was discovered in a lake near the recreation center on Sweet Bay Lane by family members searching for him three days after he went missing.
Pierre was one of the speakers at a press conference attended by the boy’s family and local elected officials near the spot Maxime’s body was found. He went missing on Wednesday, Dec. 22 when he did not come home from Crestwood on the last day of school before the holiday break.
“We’re here to call for a full investigation around the circumstances leading to the death,” Pierre said.
District 7 County Commissioner Mack Bernard said he was there not only as a county official, but as a father who grieves with the family over the loss of a loved one.
“I want everyone to know that I stand with the family in requesting a full investigation of the circumstances of Vensly Maxime’s death, in order for the family to receive answers to what happened to their son and get some sort of solace,” Bernard said.
State Sen. Bobby Powell (D-District 30) was concerned that three days went by with only limited police action until Maxime’s body was discovered by family members. He said there should be a requirement for law enforcement to act sooner.
“As a state senator, I believe it’s time that we push legislation to make sure there are laws on the books so that if a child is sent to school and does not come back in the afternoon, there is forced action,” Powell said. “People shouldn’t have to wait to find out what has happened to their child.”
Maxime’s uncle, Yvenel Clermont, said he found the teen’s body in the retention pond three days after he was reported missing.
“On Thursday, we were the only ones there looking,” Clermont said. “There was no police presence. Friday, the same thing, and then on Saturday, I’m a pastor myself. I met with the family, and we asked God [for an indication] either dead or alive because we were going crazy. This is a community. This is the United States. This is my country now. I’m a citizen. I am a homeowner now. I am a father. Why did I have to do my own search until I found my own boy dead? We are asking for a full investigation. That is all we are asking. Somebody did this, and we need to find out who. We called. We did everything. Nobody did anything until we found him ourselves. This is not fair.”
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is now actively investigating Maxime’s death.
During an initial investigation, detectives learned that Maxime and a friend met up after school on Wednesday, Dec. 22. Soon after, according to the friend, Maxime started to not feel well, so the friend told detectives that they began walking home. For unknown reasons, Maxime began to act in an unusual manner.
The teens separated, with the friend continuing home, and Maxime remained behind in the area of the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center. He was not seen again until his body was discovered on Christmas Day.
In conjunction with the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office, the PBSO’s preliminary investigative findings have not revealed any signs of trauma or injury. Foul play is not currently suspected, and initial findings indicate that Maxime may have suffered a medical episode prior to entering the water.
This investigation is continuing and ongoing. Anyone who may have additional information is urged to contact Detective J. Gomez at (561) 688-4052 or Crime Stoppers at (800) 458-TIPS.