NFL: Police won’t charge Henry’s fiancee in death
By MIKE CRANSTON
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Police will not charge the fiancee of late Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry in connection with his death last month.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police announced Wednesday that there was no evidence that Loleini Tonga drove recklessly or with excessive speed last month when Henry came out of the back of her pickup truck on a curvy, residential road and suffered fatal injuries.
“The speed limit on Oakdale Road is 35 mph and the estimated speed at the time of accident was between 19-23 mph,” police said in a statement.
Police say Henry and Tonga were arguing at home owned by Tonga’s family in northwest Charlotte on the morning of Dec. 16 when Tonga attempted to drive away. A witness said he saw a shirtless Henry jump into the back of the truck.
A 911 caller said she saw Henry beating on the back window as she drove behind the truck. About a minute later, another 911 caller said he saw an unresponsive man laying in the road.
Henry died a day later of blunt-force trauma to the head. He was 26.
“Homicide detectives interviewed Ms. Tonga who was cooperative throughout the duration of the investigation,” police said. “Her statement was consistent with witness accounts. However, there were no witnesses that actually saw how Mr. Henry came out of the back of the truck.”
Tonga told ESPN this week that Henry jumped out of the back, but was not trying to harm himself. She said she thinks Henry thought he would land safely and may have been scared because he saw someone calling the police.
Henry was away from the Bengals at the time of the incident after being placed on season-ending injured reserve with a broken forearm. Grief-stricken players and coaches attended Henry’s funeral in Louisiana. Players have worn No. 15 stickers on their helmets since and will play the New York Jets in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday.
A talented player, Henry had struggled through a number of mistakes away from the field. He was suspended five times and the Bengals at one point released him after the 2007 season as he dealt with an assault charge. But owner Mike Brown decided to give Henry another chance and brought him back on a two-year deal before the 2008 season.
Henry and Tonga were raising three children. She said on her MySpace page days before the incident that they had just paid for their wedding rings.