In 2016, Spc. Austin McGeough was hit by a teen driver. Before authorities arrived on scene, he would be hit by two other drivers. That is the “sane” part of his death.
CHEATHAM COUNTY, Tenn. (WZTV) — A soldier was hit by a car in Cheatham County three years ago. It’s a story that made international news. Why? Because of the outrageous claim by the lead detective on the case. Austin McGeough was a proud member of the 101st Airborne. The 21-year-old air assault soldier was living his dream. He loved his job, his girlfriend and was very close to his family.
Everything changed when McGeough and some soldier friends went to a party in Cheatham County three years ago this month. One of the soldiers was dating the girl whose parents were out of town.
Apparently, there was tension between the soldiers and the local boys, Austin texted his girlfriend.
“He wrote if my friends need me, I will jump in and help if something happens,” Close family friend Janie Barter said. “I will jump in and defend my friends. Now that’s an odd conversation to have halfway through a party.”
Later that night, things got downright strange. Clearly lying on his back, Austin took a 75 photo burst of a truck.
“I believe he was either accosted that whoever it was the vehicle turned around and flashed his lights on Austin,” family private investigator Dean Marino shared.
Things would get stranger after 3:14 a.m. Austin calls Cheatham County 911. He seems scared.
“I have a 911 emergency please. Help me please,” McGeough says in the call.
He appears to be running through the woods and continues calling 911. Now far away from the party, still pinged in the deep woods.
“It feels like they want to kidnap me. Honestly, I’m not insane. They want to kidnap me,” McGeough says in the call.
The last of the 911 calls comes at 3:39 p.m. In it, the tone changes and Austin acts like everything is OK.
911 operator: “Let me get you some help.”
McGeough: “I’m sorry.”
911 operator: “You called 911 sir.”
McGeough: “I’m fine now I’ve found everyone. I’m alright now, goodnight.”
14 minutes later, McGeough came crashing out of the woods onto Highway 41A waving for help when a teenager runs him over.
“I just hit someone on the road. Please, please, they are dead. They are literally dead,” screamed the teenager to a dispatcher.
As she waited for an ambulance, the unthinkable happens. Another car barreled toward Austin’s lying body in the road.
“Stop! Please! Stop, stop, stop! No, stop,” the teen yells.
McGeough is run over a second time. Minutes later, it happens again. He dies in the middle of the street, run over three times.
Just up the street at the Pleasant View Nursery, police found a crime scene. A retail trailer had been broken into. The scene shows someone ate pizza, broke jam jars, pulled out the register and the credit card reader, went to the bathroom. But in the middle of the mess sat McGeough’s phone and wallet undisturbed on a desk, stacked neatly among the havoc.
Cheatham County lead detective James Landis decided he knew exactly what happened that night.
“They basically said that Austin was not chased by people. He was chased by bees because he broke in the back of the nursery and put his hand through a wasp nest. He ransacked a nursery drunk and hallucinating, ate pizza, before he was chased by bees to his death on Highway 41A,” said family friend Jane Barter.
The story made news all over the world – a hallucinating, crazed soldier chased by wasps to his death. But here’s the thing: Is that really what happened? Did any of it happen?
The original investigation seems to be missing key elements like evidence.
McGeough to 911: “These people are crazy, these people are crazy. I swear to God.”
The family sent 911 call recordings to a special forensic audio enhancement lab. The lab discovered seven instances of background speech. Voices within the range of McGeough’s cellphone microphone, most of it unintelligible with two key exceptions.
“But in one of the instances, a male voice said he’s right here,” Barter explained.
Chilling, but not as chilling as the last voice on the last 911 call.
“Just two words – ‘tell her’ – they were close enough to McGeough to determine that the 911 operator was a woman,” Barter said.
But what about the ransacked trailer at the nursery? Jam jars were broken, the register pulled out, produce smashed. If McGeough did all those things, his DNA should be all over the place. Remember the pizza he supposedly ate before he disturbed that wasp nest and ran to his death? Guess what.
No fingerprints, no DNA, no photographs, no footprints.
Cheatham County did not collect forensic evidence from the trailer. The autopsy further destroys the department’s theory. It showed no pizza in his stomach and no wasp stings. McGeough was intoxicated and had Percocet in his system. His family says the prescription was for his wisdom teeth. But why would he leave his phone and wallet in the nursery?
“His phone was his lifeline during this awful incident. His wallet, what man takes his wallet out? Why would Austin leave his lifeline and wallet there? He wouldn’t,” emphasized Barter.
The lead detective on the case Jeff Landis is no longer with the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Department. He resigned after two of his investigations were questioned by the courts.
“I have some real issues of the credibility of Mr. Landis,” Judge David Wolf said.
Later, District Attorney Ray Crouch was asked if he was going to be able to just trust Detective Landis moving forward. His response? “I would have to say no.”
Here’s what D.A. Crouch told the family about the Landis investigation into Austin’s death:
“I agree with your conclusions that the nursery/store crime scene was not thoroughly processed. I want to explore that further. I am hoping the TBI analysis of the items above will assist in our search for facts.I will never understand why Landis theorized that Austin was chased by wasps. This is an example of how a stupid comment can greatly distract all of us from the mission of finding facts.”
Nevertheless, it’s been three years. McGeough was prepared to die for his country but not like this.
“Because everybody deserves that not because he’s a soldier, not because he was my son, because he was a human being,” his mother said. “He was going to fight for all of our freedoms. Why shouldn’t he have some respect? I’ve not only buried my son, but I’ve investigated his own death. Who should have to do that?”
D.A. Crouch says he grieves for the family, but there’s not concrete evidence that McGeough was being chased. He says the TBI concluded that the other voices on the 911 calls could be feedback from 911. However, he’s leaving the case open if someone with new information wants to come forward.
The family is offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction.