FULTON COUNTY, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - The death of a teenager whose body was found near a pool at an apartment complex has been ruled a homicide by the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office, FOX 5 News has learned. This is the answer family members have waited all summer long to learn.
The revelation comes on the same day as Mercedes Chico-Sims' family, friends and neighbors will hold a celebration and balloon release in her memory to mark what would have been her 18th birthday. The birthday celebration took place Tuesday night at the Veterans Memorial at Newtown Park in Johns Creek.
"The death certificate says homicide...drowning by the hands of another individual. She knew how to swim. The pool was 5-feet deep," Mercedes' mother, Tiffany Sims remarked.
The death certificate filed on August 20 with the State Vital Records Office states the 17-year-old "drowned as a result of a physical interaction with another individual."
Roswell police discovered the girl's body on the morning of May 29 near the pool at the Atlantic Newtown Apartments at 9230 Nesbit Ferry Road. The discovery came after Johns Creek Police had started a missing person investigation to find Mercedes.
Sims and Hazelwood said they are confident someone harmed the outgoing Centennial High School honor student.
Roswell police have not said much about the case, but they did arrest 18-year-old Elijah Foster, of Roswell, with concealing the death of another and other charges.
The parents said Foster went to high school with Mercedes at one point.
They both sat in on a bond hearing Friday
"Seeing him was hard. Talking to the judge was hard. It was all very hard and very emotional," Mrs. Sims recalled.
Investigators have not charged anyone so far with the teenager's death.
"We want the truth, no matter what it looks like," stepdad Roger Hazelwood stated.
After police identified the girl's body, the Chico-Sims family issued a statement urging anyone with information about her death to come forward.
We are devastated to learn that the body found at the Atlantic Newtown apartments in Roswell is our precious daughter, Mercedes. Beyond our grief, our commitment is to honor and remember the life of Mercedes with the support of our family and friends. We are cooperating with both the Johns Creek and Roswell police departments in their ongoing investigations. If anyone has any information that will help in the investigation into Mercedes' death, please notify the police immediately. Our family is just beginning our grieving process and we appreciate your respect for our privacy. We are not granting news media interviews at this time. Please remember Mercedes as you keep our family in your thoughts and prayers. We miss you Mercedes.