Friday, May 27, 2022

Family of man found dead at TRU Colors wants answers

Brother Keefe, father Val and brother Xan D’Auvray (left to right) speak on the phone to the medical examiner’s office about getting answers about Val’s cause of death. (Port City Daily/Alexandria Sands)

WILMINGTON (WECT/Port City Daily) — After a mysterious death at a Wilmington brewery last month, a family says they’re searching for answers. Val Flor D’Auvray’s cause of death, initially called an accident or possible suicide, has yet to be fully determined or explained. The family says details aren’t adding up and believes there’s possibly more to the story.

The morning after Easter Sunday, the D’Auvrays said their 33-year-old brother and son was reportedly seen around 2:30 a.m. by police at Coastal Horizons, half-clothed and claiming he was being chased. Officers released Val, and later in the morning, he was found dead with a head injury on the property of TRU Colors Brewery, nearly three miles away.

Six days before Val’s death, his father had reported him as a missing person to Wilmington Police Department. Despite this, he said police did not notify him when Val was spotted outside the treatment center in the early morning of April 18.

A request to the City of Wilmington for a report from that night at the center was unfulfilled, and a request for 911 calls to the location also came back without any records available. Wilmington Police Department did not respond to requests for comment or questions, citing the detective on the case was on medical leave.

While the family was quickly told Val’s death appeared to be an accident, in the weeks that followed, discrepancies are leading them to believe foul play may have been involved. The family does not believe Val was suicidal. A medical examiner reportedly told them it could have been anything, including a blow to the head.

Now the family says they want answers: Was there any surveillance footage from TRU Colors or neighboring establishments? Was the missing persons report handled properly or processed at all? Why did the police let Val go that night at Coastal Horizons?

“I know for a fact that he would still be alive because I was one mile away,” Xan D’Auvray, Val’s brother, said. “And we’ve looked into a protocol for missing persons. When they picked him up, they were supposed to call my dad. My dad would have gotten me on the phone, and we would have had Val that night. So it sickens me.”

A missing person

It was a warm, sunny Saturday, April 2, when Val walked out of Hope Recuperative, a shelter for discharged patients who are experiencing homelessness. He had been cooped up in the hospital and “the addiction called him,” his dad said.

“It was too strong,” he continued. “And it’s happened many times before where he’s become sober and just fell off, like a lot of people that are plagued with this disease.”

Val’s father said he couldn’t locate his son for two weeks, who he regularly kept in touch with. After about a week without contact, he filed a missing persons report with the Wilmington Police Department.

“My name is the same as my son and we both go by Val,” he wrote in an email to officer William Ostrosky on April 12. “Last seen at Hope Recuperative on Wrightsville Ave. He is in the Coastal Horizon Program as an outpatient here in Wilmington however they will not release any information on him because my release expired while he was in the hospital for 6 weeks.”

While Val was missing, his father left messages at Coastal Horizons for Val that he is confident reached him.

The Monday after Easter, around 9:45 a.m., a TRU Colors Brewery employee called 911 to report Val’s body on the property.

“We don’t work weekends … We all just got in,” the caller told the operator. “We went out on the patio where we keep our tanks and one of our coworkers that works out there just noticed it.”

In the recording, the staff member told the 911 center it looked like a man — shirtless and wearing brown pants — had jumped over the fence and cracked his head open. Hours later, officers showed up at the father’s home to inform him of Val’s death. That’s when he learned it was possible the missing person report was never recorded.

“I asked him, ‘How did you get a hold of me?’” the father said. “And the detective told me that I was my son’s contact with the police department, and I said, ‘Through the missing persons report I filed?’ And they said, ‘You filed a missing persons report?’”

At first, the family was told Val climbed onto the roof and either fell or jumped. Later the coroner reportedly told the D’Auvrays that Val’s body only had scratches, in addition to blunt force trauma to the back of the head and a fractured skull. The family was also told he fell from an 8-foot fence. Xan D’Auvray said his brother had several inches of thick dreadlocks, which he believed should have padded the fall.

In another discrepancy, the dad said he asked a detective if Val was properly clothed, recalling bad weather came through Easter night. At first, he was told Val had outerwear on, but about a week later, he said he spoke with the detective again, who revealed Val was only wearing pants — no socks, shoes or shirt.

That’s when the family first learned about Val’s visit to Coastal Horizons. Officers reportedly detained Val for possibly breaking in, and the family said he was released around 3 a.m.

No answers

Surrounding TRU Colors, there are businesses the family believes may have security cameras that could reveal information about Val’s whereabouts that night. So far, they say there has been little communication with the Wilmington Police Department about obtaining any footage, contacting potential suspects or investigating a “drug house” Val allegedly frequented near the brewery on Greenfield Street.

The founder of TRU Colors, a multi-million-dollar facility that hires active gang members to sell its signature beer, has told the brothers cameras were nonfunctioning at the time of Val’s death. CEO George Taylor said in a statement the company doesn’t point cameras in the area Val was located. He also said the brewery had just purchased equipment to upgrade coverage and was running updates from Thursday through Tuesday, the day after Val’s body was found.

“Sadly, we have a significant substance abuse and homeless problem in Wilmington,” Taylor added. “This is particularly evident in the area surrounding our facility since many of the important and needed services are provided by the Good Shepherd Center, less than a block away.”

In his statement, Taylor said police reported Val was making his way onto the roof to break into the building.

After visiting Taylor himself, Xan D’Auvray and his brother Keefe are skeptical of the CEO’s story. They said he switched his claims to the system upgrade after he was pressed for other camera angles, to show where Val walked that night or potentially who he was with.

“It’s a very expensive building and a part of town where a lot of crime happens,” Xan D’Auvray said. “And it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for anyone in that area to be running or operating without working cameras.”

It’s now been about a week since the family says they have spoken with a member of the Wilmington Police Department. Val’s father said he was told internal affairs is investigating the circumstances, but WPD did not confirm as much is true.

“It was 24 hours before I believe that they wrote this off as an accident, for us to press the coroner to find out that it could have been anything,” Xan D’Auvray said. “It’s clear as day, pretty much at this point, that based off of where you come from, how you look, has a lot to do with the treatment you get as far as the research, or the discovery, or the investigation that goes into your death.”

Meanwhile, the family said they heard a photo of Val’s body on the site is circulating throughout the community. For now, they have not seen it for themselves.

“We have hopes someone will come forward with more information about the pic[ture] or even share it with us,” Xan D’Auvray said.

What now?

Val D’Auvray

Before his death, the family said Val was sober for almost six months and was exhausted by his addiction. Last year Xan D’Auvray made an emotional plea on the social media platform Tik-Tok, begging for someone to help get his brother into rehab for drug and alcohol addiction – and it worked. Val received a $50,000 scholarship to Recovery Institute of Ohio and went to detox at Recovery Unplugged in Nashville in 2021.

Most recently, Val was accepted into a long-term rehab program with Trillium, Project Transition, which he would have started May 1. Instead, his family is mourning Val and looking for explanations for the circumstances that led to his death.

“That last 24 hours is such a mystery,” the dad said, “and that’s what you think about the most, is just how horrible it must have been for him.”

Val’s body is now with a medical examiner. On a call Tuesday, a representative from the office explained the Wilmington Police Department would address concerns about Val’s manner of death, while the examiner would only deal with the cause of death. Getting off the phone, the family indicated this was reflective of their experience thus far: a continuous cycle of jumping from one party to the next without answers.

“What does it take? What does it take to bring in the team who’s going to figure that out? Why do some people and some deaths get forensic teams, investigations? What does it take for us to get our due diligence,” Xan D’Auvray said. “It’s my brother’s life.”

This report was created in partnership with WECT.


Email the reporter at alexandria@localdailymedia.com

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Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at alexandria@localdailymedia.com or on Twitter @alexsands_

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