'We want the truth': Family of Vensly Maxime, teen found in retention pond, demand answers – Palm Beach Post

ROYAL PALM BEACH — Vensly Maxime’s family knew him as “Ven Vens.” The 14-year-old Crestwood Middle School eighth-grader’s favorite things included listening to music, watching cartoons, eating mini-pizzas and playing with his younger cousins. Relatives described him as quiet, humble and eager for Christmas to come.
Then on Dec. 22, the last day of school for the year, he didn’t come home after class. Family members found his body three days later, on Christmas Day, in a retention pond near the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center, after they had searched the woods near the school.
A week later, they’re still struggling to understand how it happened.
“How did he get into the water?” asked Vensly’s aunt, Louisena Hercule, as she joined more than 40 people at a march for justice Wednesday night outside Crestwood Middle. “This story, something is missing. We want the truth. We want to make sure it does not happen to another kid.” 
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Dozens of family members, friends and neighbors attended the march, and relatives who were there said they still have many questions amid law-enforcement reports that Vensly may have suffered a medical episode before ending up in the pond.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Dec. 28 that it still was investigating the teen’s death but did not suspect foul play. Preliminary findings showed that the teen did not drown, PBSO said. A sheriff’s spokesperson said Thursday that investigators were awaiting a toxicology report from the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Family members said the idea of a medical episode didn’t match what they knew of Vensly. They described him as healthy and said he had no known medical concerns.  
Wearing T-shirts with Vensly’s image and holding signs reading “Justice For Vensly,” the crowd marched along the sidewalk in front of Crestwood Middle to the pond just west of the school’s campus. As the sun set, marchers lit candles near the spot where the teen’s body was found. 
“I want you guys to fight for this boy so that it won’t be your son or daughter the next time,” one woman shouted.
The second of three siblings, Vensly was born in Haiti and moved to Florida when he was 5 years old, relatives said. He lived with extended family in a Royal Palm Beach community about 2 miles north of the Crestwood campus.
Yvenel Clermont, Vensly’s uncle, said the teen occasionally played sports recreationally but said listening to music was one of the activities he loved most.   
“Vensly, he is a very humble kid,” Hercule said. “He loved to play with my two (young) kids. Whenever he came home from school, he would always carry them. They call him by Ven Vens. … Even though they don’t know (what happened), they have a feeling that something is missing in the house. “ 
Hercule said that Vensly struggled from a learning disability and had a quiet personality. She said Vensly was eagerly anticipating spending the Christmas holiday with family. His wish list included a new pair of Nike Air Force sneakers, jeans and headphones.  
According to PBSO accounts, Vensly met with a friend after school on Dec. 22. The friend would later tell PBSO investigators that Vensly complained of feeling ill that afternoon, so the two teens began walking home.  
The unidentified teen told investigators Vensly began to behave in a strange manner and said they became separated from him during the walk. Vensly was not seen again until relatives found his body in the water on Christmas Day.  
The PBSO statement did not provide any further description of Vensly’s behavior on the day he went missing, or indicate how long his body had been submerged.
Vensly’s disappearance was first reported to Palm Beach County School District police, which issued a missing-persons flyer. Records provided to The Palm Beach Post by PBSO showed that deputies responded to the recreation center one day later to recover a backpack that was found there. The backpack was turned over to school police as part of their investigation. 
That night, shortly before 9 p.m., PBSO responded to the area where the backpack was found to assist school police with the search. The search included a PBSO helicopter, drones, a search-and-rescue dog, four deputies and a sergeant, according to PBSO records. 
The search ended nearly four hours later when efforts to find Vensly were not successful.
Clermont said he and other family members continued the search until they ultimately found Vensly’s body. 
“We’ve got a 14-year-old missing. Why did we have to do our own search until we found him?” Clermont said at the march.
A Crestwood Middle School classmate who said he first met Vensly in the sixth grade was among those who attended Wednesday’s vigil. The classmate, whom The Post is not naming because he is a juvenile, said he rarely saw Vensly walk near the recreation center. 
“He would just go straight home,” the teen said. “I’ve never seen him cut through that recreation center.” 
He questioned accounts of Vensly having a medical issue that day.  
“That doesn’t make any sense at all, because he was fine Tuesday,” he said. “The teachers never noticed it Wednesday if he did have any issues.
“And what do you do? Just leave? Just walk away? Everybody’s got an iPhone or something.” 
jwhigham@pbpost.com
@JuliusWhigham

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