BALTIMORE (WJZ) — After a string of tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic, a mother from Baltimore felt compelled to share the story of her son’s mysterious final moments alive during a vacation last year.
Annette Wedington spoke exclusively to WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren about her search for answers in the death of her son Terrence Richmond.
“He was my baby,” Wedington said. “I cry all the time and my husband says, ‘Stop. You’re going to make yourself sick.’”
Her son was vacationing near Jarabacoa on the island nation when he died during a mountain excursion.
Authorities told Wedington it was an accident — that Terrence had a heart attack and fell. But she said there was trauma to his knuckles, which she believes is a sign of a struggle. She said, according to the autopsy she obtained from Dominican Republic officials, he also had fluid in his lungs and a cracked skull.
“They kept my son’s body over there for more than a month,” she told Hellgren. “He has bruising on his back like he had been kicked. I just think about it sometimes and I want to cry.”
She said it cost more than $4,000 to get the body back to the United States and almost $1,000 to get belongings including her son’s backpack, wallet, and camera.
“He was healthy. I know they’re lying. I just want closure,” Wedington said.
There have been three deaths reported in the past two weeks at a single Dominican resort — on a different part of the island than where Terrence Richmond was staying.
Family members say Miranda Schaup-Werner of Pennsylvania became ill and died after taking a drink from the minibar.
Edward Holmes and Cynthia Day from Prince George’s County were found dead in their room at the same resort — the Bahia Principe Hotel in La Romana — five days later.
Preliminary autopsy reports show Schaup-Werner had a heart attack — like Annette Wedington’s son. And all three of those who recently died had fluid on the lungs — also like Wedington’s son.
“I know how their families are feeling. I’ve gone through the same thing,” Wedington said.
Tammy Lawrence-Daley, of Wilmington, Delaware, was on vacation in Punta Cana with her husband in January when says she went downstairs on the property to buy a snack and says she was viciously attacked.
The U.S. State Department urges travelers to be cautious of crime in the Dominican Republic, but tourism officials there say the deaths are “isolated” and insist the country, which depends heavily on tourism, is safe.
Wedington said her son’s vacation turned into a nightmare for her family. She showed WJZ his proud accomplishments — his diploma from Towson University and the messages of condolences from students in New York where he was a respected high school history teacher.
“He had a humble spirit. He deserved better,” she said. “I’m sure that more people will be coming forward since this is hitting the headlines now.”