CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - "Nobody should have to go through this. Nobody," Tanikia McCants said as she shook her head and wiped away tears.
It has been seven months since her 19-year-old son Tre'Von died while on a date with someone he had met on Instagram.
McCants believes her son would still be alive today if the teen would have known more about the person he was going out with that night, and now she is warning others of the potential dangers of social media.
On December 20, 2017, Tre'Von Howard told his mom that he was going out with a woman named Chanel who he had met on Instagram. Chanel had sent the teen a direct message on the social networking site. After a few weeks of messaging back and forth, the two made plans to finally hang out in person.
Chanel (Source: Facebook)
But what McCants says her son didn't know was that Chanel's legal name is Quinton Lonnel Harris.
"There is no way my son went knowingly, knowing that this was a man," said McCants
Harris is a 30-year-old convicted sex offender with a rap sheet full of felonies, including a 2010 case where Harris was charged with raping a 15-year-old boy at the Intercontinental Hotel in Cleveland. Police say the boy thought that he was going to the hotel to see a girl he had met on Facebook. Harris pleaded guilty to abduction and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.
Various mug shots and sex offender registry photos of Chanel, whose legal name is Quinton Harris
(Sources: Cuyahoga County Sheriff, ODRC, Willoughby Police Department)
Records from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction show Harris has been sent to state prison at least seven different times since 2009.
In addition to the 2010 charges of abduction and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, Harris has also pleaded guilty to felony charges that include forgery, theft, aggravated theft, identity fraud, carrying concealed weapons, prohibition of conveyance of certain items, receiving stolen property and misuse of credit cards.
McCants says it was just days after Harris was released from prison last November that "Chanel" began messaging her son on Instagram.
The first contact Chanel made with Tre'Von on Instagram (Source: Mentor Police Department)
On the night of Dec. 20, Harris picked up Tre'Von at his home in Cleveland.
McCants recalls the last thing she said to her son before he got into Harris' blue Chrysler 200.
"He said to me, 'Ma, I'm gone.' I said, 'Alright son, be careful.' I said, 'Text me when you get where you're going.' And that was it."
According to the Mentor Police Department, after Harris picked Tre'Von up around 8:30 p.m., the two headed to Mentor. They shopped at Macy's at Great Lake Mall, which was open late for last-minute Christmas shopping, before heading to Walmart. Harris complained about having eye pain, so after making a purchase at Walmart, Harris and Tre'Von went to Tri-Point Medical Center so that Harris could receive medical attention. The nurse at the hospital said that the wait time to see a doctor would be long and suggested Harris return later.
After the hospital, Harris and Tre'Von went to the Woodspring Suites Extended Stay Hotel on Emerald Court in Mentor. According to police, Harris had booked a hotel room online prior to their visit.
Harris' room at the Woodspring Suites Hotel. Photo taken Dec. 21, 2017 (Source: Mentor Police Department)
Harris told detectives that the two started drinking in the room. Records show they drank Cruzan 151 proof rum.
Around 2 a.m., Harris wanted to go back to the hospital, but said Tre'Von was too "tipsy" to come along, so the teen stayed behind in the hotel room. Harris told detectives they drove to the hospital alone and, after receiving treatment, returned to the hotel shortly after 5 a.m.
Harris said that is when they found Tre'Von unresponsive.
"When she arrived into the hotel room, she saw Tre lying on the bed face down on the pillow with his head slightly turned to the side," a detective wrote in his report. "She made the gesture how he was laying and it is exactly consistent with a person sleeping on their stomach. She said his eyes were open, he was off color and immediately knew something was very wrong. She checked to see if he was breathing, noticed a small amount of vomit near his mouth and called 911."
The dispatcher gave Harris CPR instructions over the phone until EMS arrived. Tre'Von was transported to Tri-Point Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
An autopsy revealed Tre'Von had alcohol poisoning and suffocated after choking on his vomit.
The teenager, who weighed 109 pounds, had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.310, almost three times over the legal limit to drive.
Police say Harris admitted to providing the alcohol that Tre'Von drank on the night he died.
Text messages obtained as evidence show Harris sent Tre'Von a photo of the 151 proof liquor before the two hung out in person and wrote, "I hope you can handle it." The teen replied, "[What] is that? I ain't even hip."
Bottle of 151 liquor on the nightstand in room 304. Photo taken Dec. 21, 2017 (Source: Mentor Police Department)
It appears that Harris also gave police conflicting reports about how Tre'Von was found in bed.
An officer who responded to the hotel wrote in his report that Harris stated Tre'Von was face up on the bed, while a detective who later interviewed Harris at the police department wrote that Tre'Von was face down when Harris found him.
After police searched the hotel room, they also searched Harris' car.
Officers noted that they found "what appeared to be vomit outside and beneath the driver's door." It is not known whose vomit was found outside of Harris' car, and there is no mention in the case file if Harris questioned about the vomit found outside.
In the state of Ohio, it is against the law to furnish beer or intoxicating liquor to a person under the age of 21.
Despite the evidence and admission that Harris provided the alcohol to Tre'Von, the Mentor Police Department and Lake County Prosecutor's Office did not pursue charges in the case.
The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office performed the autopsy and determined Tre'Von's cause of death, but because he died in Lake County, it was left up to the Lake County Coroner to determine the manner. The coroner ruled the death an accident and the case was closed.
"I just feel like it's just not fair that there's nothing that they can do, there's not one charge," said McCants.
We reached out to the Lake County Prosecutor's Office to ask why charges weren't pursued against Harris. While the case was once closed, we were now told that an active investigation is again under way.
Days after Tre'Von's death in December 2017, Harris was sent back to prison for violating parole. The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction declined to release details of the parole violation. Harris is scheduled to be released on July 24.
We contacted Harris in prison, but our request for comment was declined.
As McCants continues to struggle with Tre'Von's death, she says negative comments and rumors online have made the healing process even harder for her and her family.
"I know he wouldn't want his name to be tarnished," said McCants. "One part of this whole case that's really frustrating me is the fact that this person is stating that my child knew that he was a man."
Tre'Von Howard (Source: Family)
The mother of six says the death of her first born son will not be the end of his story.
As McCants continues her fight for justice, she hopes that sharing Tre'Von's story will make others aware of the hidden dangers of meeting someone from social media in person.
"Watch your kids. Watch what they do," said McCants. "Watch what they do on social media, because this all started with social media. He met my son on Instagram. Just be aware. I just don't want another child to fall victim to this at all."
Editor's note: In this story, we refer to Harris as 'they' because it is not clear whether they are a male dressing up as a woman, or if they are a transgender woman. Harris did not respond to our request for comment.