KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- By the time someone finally recognized that the mass along Interstate 85 was no animal carcass, but a body, it was too late. Derick Thomas, 14, was struck by a passing vehicle not once, but twice.
Two weeks ago, Andy Thomason and his wife laid their youngest son to rest. The emotions, however, remain raw for there are still many unanswered questions.
"He left a note to his best friend at 2:39 Saturday morning. It said something like, ‘I’m done and I can’t deal with it anymore,'” said Thomason, his father.
Investigators have reason to believe Derick may have taken his life, yet cannot, without certainty, rule his death a suicide.
Evidence at the scene suggests he was hit once by a tractor trailer. At this point, Sgt. Garrett Barger with the State Highway Patrol believes it will be difficult to determine if the driver, especially one operating a semi-truck, even realized they had struck a person.
He emphasized there is also the possibility something else occurred and that witnesses could be from out of the area.
"If a person actually saw him jumping from a bridge, if a person saw him walk out onto the road. If he was walking on the side of the road and was struck by the truck, any of those things will help us piece together what happened that night," said Barger.
Barger said Derick was killed sometime after 2:40 a.m. Saturday, February 23. It happened near Lane Street, exit 63.
"It would have been nice if somebody stopped. Maybe he could have been saved,” said Thomason.
Since his son’s death, Thomason and his wife have been overwhelmed by the support from loved ones and strangers. They shared with NBC Charlotte the messages many left on their son’s memorial Facebook page.
They also wanted to thank the family who took the time to pull over and investigate what they saw along the interstate before calling 911. They want to thank whoever put up a wooden cross in his memory near the spot he lost his life.
Thomason wanted to speak about his loss because he does not want his son’s death to go unnoticed.
“His death, as horrible as it is, it needs to stand for something,” he said.
Thomason believes his son, who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, was the unfortunate victim of bullying at school. He wants parents, students, teachers and the general public to understand what could come from allowing this to go on.
Derick wanted to one day be a NASCAR race driver. He would have turned 15 this Saturday and was looking forward to getting his drivers permit.
"A human life should mean more than anything," said his father.
If you have any information, contact the Highway Patrol’s Kannapolis Office at (704)786-2197 or Crimestoppers at 704-93-CRIME. You can remain anonymous.