Posted: October 12, 2017 at 12:34 am

By Michael Bediako, Sam Coniglio and Molly Wroblewski

Nine months after Arthur Bagenda, a 19-year-old international student at West Virginia University, was found dead on the rail trail in Morgantown, his family say they still have received no answers from law enforcement about how and why he died. They suspect foul play.

Family members say they were told by police that Bagenda, who was born in Uganda, was found with bruises and cuts and that his cell phone had been taken from his body. But the family has yet to receive a detailed explanation of what happened to him on or before January 28, 2017, the date a pedestrian found his body on the rail trail near the Walnut Street bridge.  Local law enforcement have not released a cause of death or divulged any information about Bagenda’s demise.

“We don’t have any information,” said Harriet Nannyonjo, Bagenda’s mother. “I just believe that there is something being hidden somewhere.”

Bagenda,  a sophomore at WVU at the time of his death, had high hopes of becoming a lawyer, his mother says. Nannyonjo doesn’t understand why the family hasn’t seen an autopsy report with toxicology results nine months after her son’s death. According to state law, the next of kin has the right to see the autopsy report, which normally should be ready in six to eight weeks, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services.

“In this case, there’s no one who could claim an unreasonable invasion of privacy by the disclosure of the toxicology report, if the parents wanted that to occur,” says  Patrick McGinley, a law professor at WVU. “There’s a significant public interest in disclosing the toxicology report.

Bagenda’s body was found near the Walnut Street Bridge on the rail-trail in Morgantown. Personal items belonging to him were found 200 feet away, according to a private investigator. (Photo credit: WDTV)

Nannyonjo said she hired Larry Peters, a private investigator located in Winchester, Virginia, to figure out what happened to her son. Peters believes that Bagenda was harmed.

“He did not go over the cliff [by the Walnut Street Bridge] as [the police] suspect,” Peters says.

Perri DeChristopher, the prosecuting attorney for Monongalia County, declined to comment. WVU officials say they are not involved with the investigation into Bagenda’s death.

“We do not get involved in police investigations,” says Kim Mosby, the senior associate dean for student life at WVU.

Born in Uganda, Bagenda moved to Bethesda, Maryland in 2008 and graduated from Bethesda High School in 2015. One of his friends described him as someone you could seek out to talk about anything.

 “He was the only person I could really talk about anything with,” says Sam Baker, a childhood friend. “You know those things you don’t really feel comfortable talking to your parents about, but you can tell you best friend anything.”

Even after the two young men graduated from high school and went their separate ways, Baker recalls one particular way Bagenda showed off his personality.

Bagenda, a native of Uganda, was  a well-liked student at WVU who hoped to become a lawyer. (Photo credit: Arthur Bagenda, Facebook)

“He was always kind of a character on Snapchat,” he remembers. 

Baker choked back tears as he recounted finding out about his childhood friend’s death after a night shift at work.

“My phone just had a ton of notifications and it was all like ‘Arthur’s dead, dude,’” he says. ““I was kind of in disbelief.”

Peters has contacted the Chief Medical Examiner’s office in Charleston, requesting Bagenda’s autopsy report multiple times, but to no avail.

“We have requested it four times,” Peters says. “They don’t respond.”

After Bagenda died, police discovered that his iPhone was still in use use by someone else, his mother said. Yet police listed his death as unattended.  A post-mortem autopsy was conducted three days later. The results have still not yet been released.

For the family, the lack of infomation has been difficult to bear. Nine months after their son’s death, Bagenda’s parents are still in disbelief over what happened. They want some answers.

“We believe the police are not doing their job,” Nannyonjo says.