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Co-worker, Not Cops, Told Ossining Mom Son's Body Was Found

OSSINING, N.Y. - An Ossining woman whose son drowned after a prank at Orchard Beach said police didn't even notify her when his body was found. Instead she said, she found out the news from a co-worker.

Sheila Lilley, the mother of 26-year-old Bryan Johnson, said she has identified his body , which was recovered Tuesday from Long Island Sound near City Island.

“It’s definitely him,” Lilley said Wednesday afternoon. “I went down to the city morgue to identify his body, and it’s definitely him.”

Johnson was reported missing June 20 after he and several friends apparently went for a late-night swim in the Bronx. Police said previously that Johnson disappeared just before 11 p.m. after jumping from a boat into Long Island Sound with a group of others to swim. Police said the boat pulled away without Johnson.

Lilley said a co-worker from Sing Sing Correctional Facility called her Tuesday to say New York City police had found a body.

“Yesterday, a co-worker called me and said there was activity on City Island and that they found a body,” Lilley said, adding that she immediately called Einstein Medical Center.

“When I found out, I called them and I asked them if it was my son. I asked them if they found anything on him like tattoos. I asked about the (tattoo of a) crown on his chest, and the woman there says ‘It’s your son.’ That’s how I found out.”

Lilley said she then had to wait until Wednesday morning to identify the body because the morgue had closed.

“I had to wait all night,” she said. “What’s sad is that if a co-worker never told me about this, I would’ve found out about everything on the news.”

Calls to the NYPD press office were not immediately returned Wednesday.

Family members say other passengers on the boat had told them the driver, a classmate of Johnson's at Ossining High School, decided to pull a prank and drive the boat about 50 yards away from the swimmers in the water. After returning to the boat, the other eight passengers noticed Johnson was not on board and called 911, according to police.

But piecing together other details has been difficult for Lilley and other members of the family, because they say they have had little communication with police since the incident. Lilley said most of the information about her son has come from friends and family in the neighborhood over the past few days.

“The detectives tell me to leave them alone and let them do their investigation, but then his body was found right where he went missing; so don’t tell me you’ve been looking for him,” she said. “Out of respect, they should’ve done something to get in contact with me during this.”

At least three people on the boat were from Ossining, Lilley said, and several passengers have come to speak with her since the incident.

“Two girls that went with him that day came by, and the kid that graduated with him also came by the house,” Lilley said. “They wanted to tell me their stories. So I called the detectives to tell them, and they didn’t want to listen,” she said.

Aside from a few brief conversations on the night of the incident, Lilley said police have not reached out in any way to communicate with her and other members of the family. Roxanna Holmes, Lilley’s sister and former co-worker at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, said she was surprised by what she said was a lack of communication from police.

“The way the authorities have handled and treated this case has been totally disrespectful to our family, and it’s outrageous,” Holmes said. “You don’t have to tell us about the investigation. But just call and say that you’re doing something. They said to us, 'We’re all under the same shield.' Well, it’s hard to tell.”

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