FAMILY VOWS TO FIND OUT TRUTH

By CRAIG McTEAR

JONATHON McKenzie's family won't rest until the puzzle surrounding his death on Hogbin Drive last week is solved.

But today at 11am, their heavy hearts and minds will focus on farewelling the free-spirited Urunga 18-year-old at his funeral service.

They have no idea why 'Jono' was lying in the middle of the road just before a car hit him at 2.30am last Wednesday, but they're fairly certain he was heading to Toormina.

"Why was he lying there? It doesn't make sense. He did drink a lot, but he never got that bad that he didn't know what he was doing," his mum Donnalee Ball and dad Kevin McKenzie said.

They fought back tears as they told this reporter how much their lovable rogue with the cheeky grin meant to his family and his many friends.

Jono spent all of his tragically short life in the Bellinger Valley.

After finishing Year 10 at Bellingen High in 2003, he flirted with stage production and helped out behind the scenes at the Bellingen Jazz Festival. He also toyed with a career in hospitality.

But becoming a career soldier was his ultimate ambition, sadly one he would never fulfil.

"If I had to describe Jonathon, it would be free-spirited. He had a very big heart and he was very loyal," Donnalee said.

"He had his own code of justice and didn't like to see anyone downtrodden. If someone was unjustly treated, he would get in and help them without thinking of the consequences.

"He was very honest and you knew where you stood with him. He didn't handle lies or hypocrisy. I think he got frustrated with the world a lot.

"He was also really deep and internalised everything.

"If Jono 'said he was with you, he meant he was with you'," Kevin said.

"He was a good-hearted, wild young man who was also very methodical. He was a perfectionist.

"If he saw someone down on their luck on the street, he was always willing to give them money.

"His passion until he was 15 was Bellingen Junior Rugby League. He was good at athletics and other sport, and was a wonderful at drawing."

Donnalee's husband, Charlie Ball, remembered Jono as a nomad who didn't need much to make him happy.

"All he had was his backpack. He was happy with that. As long as he had his toothbrush," Charlie said.

"He was uncomplicated."

Today's funeral will be held at the Hogbin Drive Crematorium chapel.

Anyone who can help with the investigation into Jono's death should contact Coffs Harbour detectives on 6652 0299.



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