Bullet's impact leaves McConathy family shattered

Bullet's impact leaves McConathy family shattered

December 22nd, 2013 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Kim Lowery, left, mother of 17-year-old Dalton McConathy who was shot and killed last month, and her daughter Haley McConathy become emotional as they talk about about the day Dalton was killed Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, at the offices of attorney McCracken Poston in Ringgold, Ga. Dalton McConathy was shot and killed on Nov. 11 by Fred Steven Youngblood while allegedly stealing scrap metal from Youngblood's yard, and no charges have yet been filed against Youngblood.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

Dalton McConathy is pictured with his mother, Kim Lowery, in this family photo.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Drinking beers in his dead son's truck, Bobby Joe McConathy decided about 1:30 a.m. Saturday to go for a drive.

The trip didn't last long. A flat tire left him stranded on Highway 2A in Ringgold, Ga. Kim Lowery, his girlfriend of 22 years and the mother of his three children, picked him up and brought him back home.

She said that's when his fury swelled.

McConathy tried to take off again, this time in Lowery's vehicle. She stopped him, leaning over and pulling the keys out of the ignition. McConathy hopped out and screamed, as he had done so many times since Nov. 11 -- the day a man shot and killed his 17-year-old son, Dalton McConathy.

"That [expletive deleted] murdered my baby!" Bobby McConathy yelled.

"And the anger just kind of built from there," Lowery said later.

Around 2:20 a.m., inside their house at 19B 466 Walker Hollow Road in Chickamauga, Ga., McConathy fired a rifle through the ceiling. Lowery called 911, and members of the Walker County Sheriff's Office arrived. Lowery and the children left the house soon after.

Two hours into the standoff, the department's Special Operations Group arrived. McConathy wouldn't allow himself to be arrested. Finally, around 10 a.m., police threw cans of pepper spray into the house. McConathy ran out the back door, and deputies took him into custody.

The sheriff's office charged McConathy, 43, with false imprisonment, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, five counts of reckless endangerment and five counts of simple battery. He'll stay in the Walker County Jail until a bond hearing Monday in Walker County Magistrate Court, Sheriff Steve Wilson said.

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Lowery said Bobby McConathy has been on the verge of a mental breakdown for weeks. He can't sleep. He's lost about 25 pounds. Often, he drinks and screams about the case, about how Dalton's killer -- 69-year-old Fred Steven Youngblood -- has not been charged. He skipped his son's funeral.

He blames himself, for the death and for the lack of charges against Youngblood.

The day of the shooting, Youngblood told Catoosa County Sheriff's Office investigators that McConathy and a 16-year-old tried to steal scrap metal out of Youngblood's backyard at 2520 Post Oak Road. He said the boys charged at him and he shot McConathy in self defense.

Youngblood has not responded to previous requests for comment, and he could not be reached Saturday. An attorney said Youngblood was protecting himself and his property.

On Friday, McConathy and Lowery agreed through their attorney to meet with a Times Free Press reporter.

They planned to speak publicly for the first time about their son's death. McConathy was going to address his past, how he had been arrested in Catoosa County nine times since 1999 and convicted five times, on charges of obstruction, theft and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was going to talk about how he believed his tumultuous relationship with the sheriff's office has affected their investigation into Dalton's killing.

Lowery and two of Dalton's siblings decided to go through with the meeting at the office of Ringgold attorney McCracken Poston.

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Poston and Dalton McConathy's family dispute the official version of events. Poston showed the Times Free Press a picture of McConathy's body taken days after the killing. The picture shows a wound on the boy's right earlobe and the side of his neck.

Poston argues the bullet cut through McConathy's earlobe before hitting his neck, indicating the bullet came from directly above.

Lowery says she has spoken with the 16-year-old who was with McConathy. The sheriff's office charged the boy with burglary on Nov. 11, and his identity has not been released. But Lowery said the boy gave her the following version of events:

Before the shooting, McConathy and the boy knocked on the front, side and back doors of the house. McConathy had apparently spotted aluminum barrels in the backyard while driving by earlier, and the boys were going to ask the homeowner if they could sell the barrels to a scrapyard.

Nobody answered the door, so the boys walked to the backyard. That's when Youngblood came outside. He was on a balcony, above the boys, a gun in his hand.

He told the boys to leave, and they agreed to do so. McConathy asked Youngblood not to fire his weapon. And that, the teen told Lowery, is when Youngblood shot her son.

Ansley Chrnalogar, Dalton McConathy's girlfriend, was waiting in a truck on Post Oak Road. After the other boy carried McConathy to the bed of the truck, Chrnalogar called Lowery.

"Kim," Lowery remembers Chrnalogar saying, "Dalton's been shot. They're doing CPR."

"Who shot him?" Lowery asked.

"Some old man."

On Saturday, McConathy's children, 20-year-old Dustin and Haley, 16, argued the point they say their father had hoped to make. They said they've grown up knowing that officers would treat them differently because they're "Bobby Joe's kids."

In April 2010, a 17-year-old Dustin McConathy was pulled over for reckless driving. When the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office deputy saw the McConathy name on the license, he later allegedly told Lowery, "I know who his father is and where he comes from."

"Being Bobby's son puts you at a disadvantage," Poston said.

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Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin said last week Bobby McConathy's past has nothing to do with this case. On Saturday, Franklin said he has not yet reviewed the full investigative file and could not say whether the boy with McConathy had been interviewed. But Franklin disputed the version of events presented by Lowery.

"I can tell you that a lot of that is not true," he said.

"If he wasn't there, that's not known," Poston said in response. "They don't know. She's quoting a boy who was there."

Franklin has not decided whether to present the case to a grand jury, and he said Saturday there is no timetable for his decision. Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk did not respond to a call seeking comment on Lowery's story.

But Chad Young, an attorney representing Youngblood, disputed Lowery's version of that day. Young said his client did not hear the boys knock on his doors. All he heard was someone rattling the front doorknob, apparently trying to get inside.

When Youngblood walked onto a porch on the side of the house, he saw the boys exiting his basement. He yelled at them, they ran at him, and he fired a shot. Then he called 911.

"Mr. Youngblood did not intend to harm anyone but was simply protecting himself and his property," Young said in an email. "If he had intended to harm anyone, logic would have it that he would have attempted to harm the other 2 trespassers [Chrnalogar and the boy] as opposed to going inside his house and calling 911."

•••

In the six weeks since the shooting, Lowery and the rest of Dalton's family have barely slept. They spend nights going through his Facebook page, looking at old photos again and again. They scan a book he compiled and labeled "Dalton's Things to Do" that holds blueprints for projects of the future, such as building a boat.

At night, in the rare moments when she feels like sleeping, Lowery holds Dalton's gray-and-blue Hollister shirt.

"I can smell him on me," she said.

Nobody was closer with Dalton than his father, family members say. Dalton was home-schooled, and the two spent hours hunting, fishing and working on the house together. When Bobby McConathy needed something done, Dalton volunteered while the other children backed away.

But two days before Dalton died, a series of arguments occurred inside the house.

First, Dalton and Chrnalogar argued about whether they were going to spend the day together. Then Bobby and Dalton argued about that first argument.

Bobby got mad. He said Dalton was disrespecting him and he told the boy to leave. Dalton McConathy never came back.

For weeks, his father has told his family one thing: "I killed my baby."

Staff writer Ben Benton contributed to this report.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com