At first glance, the March 23 murder of Wilmer-Hutchins High School basketball standout Troy Causey Jr. was the result of the cruel stupidity of undersupervised teenagers.
According to police, Causey and a crosstown rival, Madison High's Johnathan Turner, started started arguing over a video game. Words turned to punches, and Causey wound up on the street in front of his house with his head kicked in.
But over the past several days, WFAA's Brett Shipp has been building a case that adults -- specifically Dallas ISD athletic officials -- deserve some amount of scrutiny.
Causey and Turner, it turns out, were roommates, both crashing with Causey's third cousin on Cinnamon Oaks Drive in Southeast Oak Cliff. Nothing wrong with that per se, until you consider how they got there and how they made themselves eligible to play basketball.
Shipp, the undisputed bard of corruption in southern Dallas high school athletics, reports that Causey grew up with his mother and step-father near Hamilton Park in northeast Dallas, which would have put him in the attendance zone of Richardson ISD's Lake Highlands High School. While serving time in juvenile detention on an 2012 assault charge, however, Causey was approached by Wilmer-Hutchins basketball coach John Burley, who offered him a slot on the team.
That alone would be enough to bring down the wrath of the UIL, which bans high schools from recruiting players, but Causey's mother says that Wilmer-Hutchins officials didn't stop there. They had her fill out paperwork claiming she and her son lived in the attendance zone (she stayed in North Dallas), then allegedly forged a "home visitation document form" citing evidence that the family had moved to a home on Learning Oaks Street, three blocks from where Causey was actually staying.
Turner's arrival at the Cinnamon Oaks home was equally sketchy. According to Shipp, he played basketball at Madison during ninth grade before being recruited to play at North Atlanta High School. Turner was then re-recruited by Madison coaches, who were reportedly more than willing to overlook the fact that his mother and sister lived far outside the Madison attendance zone, or that the home he shared with Causey was more than nine miles from campus.
An athletic participation document, signed by a Madison administrator and a coach and obtained by Shipp, list Turner's residence as a South Dallas apartment complex for senior citizens.
DISD has placed Burley and Madison head coach Roderick Johnson on leave as it investigates potential recruiting violations.
It's hard not to imagine a counterfactual in which Madison and Wilmer-Hutchins follow UIL rules and don't recruit Turner and Causey, who don't become roommates and don't start arguing over a video game.
Not that DISD is to blame for Causey's death. Turner, a 19-year-old adult, is the one charged with murder. It's just kind of amazing that, years after Shipp revealed widespread recruiting violations, DISD doesn't monitor these things more closely.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.