17-year-old Oconto boy connected to death of his neighbor released from jail

Posted at 1:40 PM, Dec 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-29 18:09:30-05

According to Oconto County District Attorney Edmund Burke, the 17-year-old boy connected to a death of his 36-year-old neighbor has been released from jail. 

The medical examiner, Dr. Vincent Tranchida, has determined  Jason Fotopoulos' cause of death was bleeding of the brain and upper spinal cord as a result of blunt force trauma.

Dr. Tranchida explains that this type of injury is almost always fatal and death occurs nearly instantaneously. 

Dr. Tranchida also states that this type of injury may result from a relatively mild trauma to the head or neck area.

In other words, the amount of force used does not necessarily have to be great for this type of injury to occur.

The Oconto County Sheriff's Department says they conducted a thorough investigation of the scene, but notes that snow was falling at the time of the incident which interfered with the collection of evidence.

Authorities say there was no evidence that a weapon was used by either the 17-year-old or Fotopoulous during the altercation.

District Attorney Burke says there is no evidence to indicate that the 17-year-old was under the influence of any alcohol or controlled substances at the time of the incident.

Witnesses have indicated that Fotopoulos had consumed a beer and two mixed drinks prior to the altercation.

According to District Attorney Burke, the altercation started when the 17-year-old was asked to bring in a load of wood from a woodshed on the property owned by his grandfather, with whom he was residing.

Fotopoulos came out onto the porch area of the residence as the 17-year-old was collecting wood and started talking about an incident that had occurred between the two on Thanksgiving, reports say. 

Witnesses claims Fotopoulos used racially inappropriate language directed at the 17-year-old, who is of African-American descent. 

Witnesses also claim Fotopoulos grabbed the 17-year-old while on the porch and pushed him as he tried to go back into the residence.

The two men ended up on the ground between the residence and a garage that was nearby.

Witnesses say Fotopoulos continued to pursue the 17-year-old, who repeatedly told Fotopoulos to go home. 

Fotopoulos continued pushing, poking and swinging at the 17-year-old, according to witnesses.

At one point, witnesses say the 17-year-old grabbed Fotopoulos in the area of the neck and "put him on the ground."

Fotopolous regained himself and continued to pursue the altercation with the 17-year-old, according to reports. 

The 17-year-old reports he struck Fotopoulos once, knocking him to the ground and then attempted to go back into the residence, but was prevented from doing so when Fotopoulos grabbed his jacket.

Reports indicate the 17-year-old managed to wriggle out of the jacket he was wearing to get away from Fotopoulos. 

Authorities say the jacket was recovered at the scene with the left sleeve torn.

Afterwards, witnesses say Fotopoulos grabbed the 17-year-old in the genital area and the teen then punched Fotopoulos, knocking him to the ground near the trailer used for hauling wood. 

District Attorney Burke says it is unclear whether Fotopoulos' head or neck struck the trailer. 

Based upon this evidence and discussions with the medical examiner, District Attorney Burke says it appears this punch was the cause of death. 

Witnesses say the 17-year-old went back into the residence believing Fotopoulos would get up and leave.

The 17-year-old was called back outside of the residence by his grandfather when it was discovered that Fotopoulos was unresponsive and having trouble breathing, according to reports.

Witnesses say the 17-year-old and his grandfather both attempted to perform CPR. 

911 was contacted at this time as well.

When emergency responders arrived, it was discovered that Fotopoulos was already deceased. 

District Attorney Burke says the decision to release the 17-year-old from custody was based on the summary of information presented above, from which the following conclusions were drawn:

  1. The 17-year-old did not intend to kill Jason Fotopoulos.
  2. The punch landed by the 17-year-old that killed Jason Fotopoulos was landed while the 17-year-old was attempting to defend himself.
  3. The nature of the injury to Jason Fotopoulos and the lack of any outward physical signs of injury would not lead an ordinary person to believe that Fotopoulos was severely injured after the fatal blow was delivered.
  4. There was not a significant period of delay between the time that the blow causing death was struck and the time aid was attempted at the scene.

The 17-year-old was released to an adult relative living in the area on December 28. 

District Attorney Edmund Burke confirms the investigation is still ongoing at this time.