Lyon College Student Found Dead, Family Suspects Foul Play

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James Gilfedder was supposed to be at Lyon College to play baseball, but instead, his life ended in tragedy after attending a party last weekend.

“Somebody did something. Somebody hurt him. Somebody killed him,” Nikki Gilfedder, James’ mother, said. James and Nikki Gilfedder had no idea when they dropped their 19-year-old son off in Batesville two weeks ago that it would be the last time they saw him alive.

“I feel like I participated in his murder because I brought him here,” James said.

The family got a call from Batesville police on Saturday that their son had died after going to a party with the baseball team.

“He only drank a fifth of vodka that would not kill my son,” Nikki said.

When the family arrived in Arkansas from California, they said the pieces didn’t all match up.

“My son went through a lot of trauma. He had a lot of trauma on his face and all over his body and we knew that there was a different story,” James said.

Batesville police confirmed the party was held at a home partially owned by a baseball coach at Lyon College and all the renters are baseball players there.

KATV asked James if he believed it was a hazing event.

“Yes, I think it was an initiation that went out of control,” James said. “Somebody had a lot of hate or something because from what we have seen no one should have ever went through that no one.”

Batesville police told KATV’s content partner KAIT Region 8 News, that student-athletes were interviewed and there are three persons of interest.

“When people finally see and hear about this evidence this town is going to be furious and disgusted,” Gilfedder said.

Investigators are waiting on autopsy results before submitting their evidence to the prosecutor for possible charges. The family said they haven’t received many answers.

“It’s a secret and these kids are being told to keep quiet. They are doing the code of silence. And the witnesses that haven’t spoke up, I suggest you speak because I don’t want to see you guys in prison,” Gilfedder said.

Now the family is left with just their memories, anger and so many questions.

“They don’t have one person in jail right now. These boys are out here playing baseball. They have a game tomorrow and I have to go bury my son,” James said.

He said the family is waiting on a death certificate before they can bring their son’s remains home with them to California.

The family said that Rainwater Holt & Sexton to are set to represent them.

“It’s destroyed our whole family. I’m just sick to my stomach. I haven’t been able to sleep. I’ve lost so much sleep. I want my son back,” Gilfedder said.

Gilfedder said his son had nearly 60 offers to go play baseball in college, but he fell in love with Arkansas and Lyon College. The California kid was dubbed “Big Country” by all his friends for wearing a cowboy hat and driving a large truck.

“He wanted to be a doctor or (a) professional baseball player,” Nikki said.

James said his son hoped to bring the town of Batesville a championship.

“We were hoping because it was a dry county, no alcohol, that things were going to be good,” Nikki said. “(The) kids got alcohol, they got drugs at that house. I mean he wasn’t innocent, but that wouldn’t have killed him”

The family is asking anyone with information about what happened to come forward.

“Somebody reach out to us and tell us what happened, tell us what happened,” Nikki said.

KATV reached out to Batesville police and they said no new information would come out until the autopsy was complete. Lyon College has not responded for comment yet.

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