Family and friends of a man reported missing and later found dead in a roadside ditch last month held a peaceful protest in downtown Jacksonville Monday morning demanding officials “reopen” the case and bring “Justice for Tre.”

Clifton Daniel McFadden lll, 24, was last seen May 15 at his father’s Fieldcrest home in Jacksonville and was reported missing by his mother, Monica Jones, on May 18. An Onslow County Sheriff’s Department press release describing McFadden as a missing person was sent out on May 19.

McFadden’s body was discovered by OCSO detectives on May 23 in the 100 block of Stella Road in Stella. An official Medical Examiner’s post mortem report on McFadden has not been released, but McFadden’s death certificate on file at the Onslow County Register of Deed’s office states the cause of death as “accident” as a result of “blunt force injuries of head and jumping from a moving car.”

The findings on the death certificate concur with the findings from the OCSO.

McFadden was a rear-seat passenger in a vehicle occupied by three other men, who the Onslow County Sheriff's Office confirmed as Bradley Taylor Reese, 26, Justin Allen Butson, 26, and Charles Oliver Adams, 34. At some point during the car’s journey on Stella Road, authorities concluded, McFadden exited the moving vehicle under his own volition.

Sheriff Hans Miller said his detectives investigated the circumstances surrounding McFadden’s death and conducted numerous interviews with the three occupants who accompanied McFadden in the vehicle.

The sheriff’s office has previouslty noted they were told McFadden, who has a history of mental illness, was acting erratic and paranoid before he jumped out of the backseat of the car. The three told investigators they tried to find McFadden but couldn’t see him lying in a ditch due to overgrown vegetation. None of them called 911 to report the incident, they said, because they assumed he’d run off somewhere.

 Miller said they could not make an arrest based on their findings.

“(The three) were treated as persons of interest at first, but we cannot make arrests on emotions. It takes proper and credible evidence,” Miller said. Miller continued and said, “We have no evidence to conclude that any of the three had any culpability. Any loss of life is not good. We will continue to investigate if more information comes forward. This case is in an inactive state and not closed."

Outside Miller’s office on Court Street, five McFadden supporters who were later joined by the decedent’s parents — Monica Jones and Clifton McFadden Jr. — held homemade signs that read: “Justice 4 Tre” and “Justice for McFadden” and shouted “Justice for Tre” and “reopen the case.”

Jones said she last spoke to her son on May 15 and feels “things don’t add up” regarding her son’s disappearance and evidential death. “I started playing junior detective and went onto my son’s Facebook Page,” Jones said. She said she provided information she found — such as Tre’s friends — to the OCSO. “I have lots of specific doubts like how can you open the backdoor at that rate of speed?

Miller met quietly with McFadden’s parents with the Sheriff seen clutching Jones’ hands outside the Onslow County Justice Centers as the five protestors chanted to anyone within earshot.

Mr. McFadden released a statement after the event which read: “As the parents and friends of my son we are gathered to make the Onslow County sheriff's department aware that we are in complete disagreement with the results of the investigation into my son's death. We have been told that this conclusion was made based on the account of the other three people in the car. The lack of forensic factual evidence makes the picture painted highly unlikely. In addition the fact that the witnesses had to be found even after he was reported missing points to foul play. In short we are searching for the truth.”

McFadden’s friends on hand for the protest are skeptical of official’s version of the incident. Kristina Cagle, a protest organizer and childhood friend of McFadden, said she “chose today to demonstrate because it needs to happen sooner rather than later,” Cagle said. In Cagle’s mind, the three men who were in the car with McFadden are still suspects. “They had over a week to come up with that story and they said that he jumped out of a car. That does not make any sense to me,” Cagle said.

Miller said anyone who may have information on the circumstances of this case are encouraged to bring it forward. The OCSO can be reached at 910-455-3113. Or call Onslow County Crime Stoppers at 910-938-3273. Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards up to $2,500 for information that’s deemed of value or assistance to law enforcement. Callers to Crime Stoppers are not required to reveal their identities. Information can also be anonymously texted via Text-A-Tip by typing TIP4CSJAX and the message to 274637.

Daily News Government Reporter Mike McHugh can be reached at 910-219-8455 or email mike.mchugh@jdnews.com.