UPDATE | Autopsy on Josey basketball player could take months to be completed

Recardell Sheppard (WRDW-TV)
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News 12 at 6pm / Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) --- New developments in our investigation into the death of a Josey High senior who collapsed in the school gym during a pick-up basketball game and died at the hospital.

The coroner tells News 12 GBI agents finished their autopsy in Atlanta Wednesday. However, lots of questions about what happened to CJ Sheppard remain. It could be six months before we know what killed the 17-year-old athlete.

It was a fun basketball game until the sudden change.

"Very shortly after 5 p.m. he started to experience some complications," Richmond County's School Police Chief, Alfonzo Williams, told News 12.

Every second counts when life's time clock is ticking and at 5:01 p.m. the school says someone called for help

"EMS arrived a few minutes after the call came in and the student was later transported to the hospital where he expired." Chief Williams told News 12

Williams said his preliminary review of the last moments of CJ's life puts the ambulance at Josey High School 12 minutes after the call.

The school system's police department does hope to have a completed review soon, but they are not taking any options off the table. T.W. Josey had cameras and investigators could be looking at that video to get answers.

"We have been conducting the review since the incident occurred and we will get to those who need to be talked to within a responsible time," Williams said.

Police interviews of CJ Sheppard's classmates who were in the gym when he collapsed could wrap up Wednesday. Those must be finished before the full review can be released.

"It could be as early as Thursday or it can be as late as Monday," said Williams of the timeline for the completed review.

With the full review expected soon the GBI autopsy is complete. The coroner says results could take 26 weeks so toxicology and other test results can be analyzed.


Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) --- New details are released in the death of a Josey High School student who collapsed during a pick-up game and died at the hospital.

An autopsy was completed Wednesday in Atlanta. The findings are pending toxicology and histology, according to Kenneth Boose with the Richmond County Coroner's Office. The results could take up to 26 weeks for the GBI to complete, Boose said.

Richmond County Board of Education Police tell News 12 a Josey coach called 911 at 5:01 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 13th. EMS arrived at the school at 5:13 p.m. Sheppard was taken to Georgia Regents Medical Center and was pronounced dead at 6:33 p.m.

RCBOE police are interviewing students to get a more accurate timeline of the events that led up to Sheppard's collapse.

Original story - News 12 at 6 O'Clock/ Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014

The lowered flags outside of T W Josey High School are a reflection on what's going on inside.

"I called the students in myself and talked to them. I told them death does not have an age and we are going to get through it," said the school's Principal Isaac Lee.

Recardell Sheppard a high school senior better known as CJ died after collapsing on the basketball court during a pick-up game last night.

"How have you held up during all this," asked News 12's Jorge Lopez.

"Mr. Lopez it's been hard it's been rough," Mr. Lee answered.

While grief counselors meet with students the system is putting together a timeline of what exactly happened.

"The day of his death, he missed cross country practice to go to ACT prep because we were prepping him for the test," he said.

CJ's potential on the court and off is what principal Lee calls inspiration .

"If I had 10 Recardell Sheppard's I could really turn T W Josey around," he said.

Lee says students grieving for a friend's loss should also remember his living example

"He left us doing what he loved best and that's the game of basketball. He really planned to use it as a tool to further his education and get out of his environment," Lee told News 12.

Richmond County's Athletic Director says CJ's potential could've earned him a basketball scholarship. No telling if UGA was on the list, but the head basketball coach did send his condolences on twitter.

"This tragedy has impacted not only his family, but here at the school and the community as well," Mr. Lee said.

While CJ took his last shot on earth some believe he'll be watching and cheering Josey on this year from above.

A candlelight vigil will be held at T W Josey Wednesday at 7pm. The public is welcome.


News 12 at 5 o'clock/ Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) ---Grief counselors on hand Tuesday at Josey High School to help students cope with the death of a high school basketball player.

Recardell Sheppard, 17, collapsed on the Josey High School Gym floor Monday afternoon during a pick-up game of basketball.

School police are helping the coroner's office nail down a timeline of what happened when the senior died. News 12 breaks down what we know and why Sheppard's autopsy could take weeks.

The death of Josey High School Senior Recardell Sheppard is a mystery.

"He was playing a pick up basketball in the gym and fainted. They were able to revive him periodically, but we are really not sure of all of the details," said Richmond County Superintendent Dr. Angela Pringle.

Recardell is better known as CJ to his friends. Just a day after his death CJ's absence is felt in school. His classmates shared hugs and passed around a card to send to his family.

"Our focus to be honest with you is really on supporting the family, supporting the siblings, and supporting the students. We were there this morning with grief counselors," Dr. Pringle told News 12

Dr. Pringle also tells News 12 that the school system's police department is assisting the Richmond County Coroner with getting a timeline on what exactly happened when the Josey High School Senior passed away. The coroner said two thirds of student-athlete deaths are related to heart conditions. Which is a possible reason why the high school senior passed away.

"As we work with the coroner and our own internal staff we will have more information that is more fact based," Dr Pringle told News 12.

The coroner's office says an autopsy will be done on CJ, but limited space at the GBI could delay the autopsy until at least Wednesday

"He was the kind of young man that anybody would want as a son," said Richmond County Athletic Director, George Bailey.

Bailey said CJ's grades and love for sports drove his desire to continue with college

"He definitely would have received a scholarship somewhere. I don't know whether it would be division 1, 2, 3 but he had the talent," Bailey told News 12.

It could be days or even weeks before the GBI release how CJ died.

"We as a school system want to provide all information and be as accessible as possible," Dr. Pringle said.

Even though CJ can no longer dribble the ball his legacy will roll on forever in the people he touched.

Again a review will be done at the school to find out what happened and when, but they don't have a timeline yet on when that will happen.