FORT WORTH — The family of Dammion Heard say they are only just beginning to scratch the surface of what happened to their 20-year-old son more than a month ago.
"I got to suck it up and get through this for my son," said Gary Heard. "He was a strong man — no a quitter — and I'm not going to quit on him.
The Heard family has raised more than $60,000 and hired prominent Denver attorney Pamela Mackey to investigate his son's death.
On April 2, Dammion's body was found hanging from a tree about eight miles outside of Gunnison, Colorado. He had gone missing a few days before that.
The lifelong Texan and former standout at Fossil Ridge High School in Keller was studying at Western State Colorado University as a freshman. He was also on the wrestling team.
"He was always so energetic," his father said. "We're going to find my son didn't commit suicide."
Since the beginning, the Heards have been frustrated with the investigation conducted by Gunnison police.
Heard said the responding officer who found Dammion told him over the phone that his son had committed suicide. The department also put out an initial press release saying no suspects were being pursued.
But as News 8 first reported two and half weeks ago, many of the circumstances surrounding the death were downright bizarre.
Police acknowledged to the Heards that Dammion was in a physical fight at a party the night he disappeared. He also was seen filling up his car on surveillance footage at a local gas station. And his dad says cell records indicate his son was going to meet up with a young woman.
Heard talked with dozens of Damion's friends after his service.
"Not one of those people to this day has indicated he was anything but upbeat and enjoying his life," Heard said.
Local criminal defense attorney Trent Loftin said it was the right thing for the family to bring in outside investigators.
"They can look at social media, go to Facebook, go to the party scene and see if there are any videotapes," he said.
Loftin says ultimately, it will still be up to local authorities to pursue a case even if Mackey's team finds compelling evidence that a crime occurred.
"They may have to take what they find to an agency higher up," he said.
Mackey's law firm, Haddon, Morgan and Foreman, has handled a number of high profile cases. She successfully defended NBA star Kobe Bryant against rape charges, and her partners were involved in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, which dominated Colorado headlines for years.
This week, the Gunnison detective handling the case told News 8 in an email that the investigation is ongoing and they are awaiting full autopsy results.
The family has set up a website as their search for answers continue.
They are also offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the case.