New docuseries examines death of Black teen found hanging from tree in 1986

Keith Warren's family was not informed of the incident for more than six hours, no autopsy was performed and no criminal investigation was ever opened.

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Discovery+ is examining the mysterious death of a young Black man who was found hanging from a tree in Silver Spring, MD more than 30 years ago, and the injustices surrounding the investigation.  

Uprooted tells the story of Keith Warren, who, at age 19, was found hanging from a tree in 1986. Police ruled it a suicide at the scene. “The tree was cut down, his family was not informed for more than six hours, no autopsy was performed and no criminal investigation was ever opened,” reads a press release. 

Sherri Warren, Keith’s sister, has spent 35 years seeking the truth. Her mother died having never received closure. Uprooted is accompanied by a six-part podcast hosted by Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, and features guests who will unpack criminal investigations, police corruption, media accountability. 

“Interestingly enough, Keith was a ‘Black white boy.’ I don’t know how to explain it. All of his friends were white. All my friends were Black. His friends didn’t care for me, but not because of skin color, just because of my mouth,” Sherri told PEOPLE in an exclusive interview. 

“It’s something that we talked about on the podcast — that in many places where Black people settled and lived, the police forces that kind of monitored those communities often had covert and overt racism inside them,” she continued. 

Sherri recalled how the county and police tried to silence and disparage her mother. 

“They saw a single Black female with two kids, with no money and the county thought: We could just make her go away. It’s in their notes, it’s in police documents that I have. They tried to disparage her name, they said that she was a distraught mother who couldn’t get over her child’s death — or, you know, she was crazy, because she wanted to talk to anybody and everybody.”

Sherri noted that the county spent more resources looking for a missing police dog in the 90s than they did to solve the curious case of her brother’s death. 

“I remember when we found out that the tree got cut down, and she demanded a meeting with the department,” she recounted of her mother. “It took her probably a week and a half just to have a conversation about why (police are) collecting evidence month after the case is closed.”

The press release for Uprooted said the series shows never-before-seen evidence that supports the idea that Keith Warren did not die by suicide. Law enforcement officials, forensic experts, eyewitnesses and private investigators give their takes on what may have happened in the series.

“Keith loved life. Keith used to say to me that I was blessed to have a brother that looked as good as him,” Sherri said. 

“This is a story that needs to be heard by everyone,” said Lisa Holme, SVP of content and commercial strategy for Discovery. “Our partners at NowThis did an incredible job uncovering new information and gaining access to those most intimately involved in the case. It is a story about the fight against injustice and corruption that resonates as much today as when it first occurred.”

“This docuseries is the culmination of a years-long effort at NowThis to shed light on the true circumstances behind Keith Warren’s tragic death, and amplify the voice of his sister Sherri who has fought tirelessly for justice,” said Matt McDonough, executive producer of NowThis Originals. “We’re proud to partner with Discovery to tell this important story that has gone unseen and unheard, and to continue to illuminate vital issues like corruption and racial injustice – issues with which our audience is deeply engaged.”

Uprooted premiered Feb. 18 on discovery+. 

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