Behind Gabriel Myers' sweet smile lay a sad, scarred soul

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Date: 2009-04-26

Department of Children & Families documents show a life that spiraled out of control

Jon Burstein

He was just 7 years old. He enjoyed playing with Pokémon trading cards and swimming. He sometimes could act like "the nicest, sweetest little boy in the world," according to a former foster parent.

But behind Gabriel Myers' smile was a scarred soul, a boy who once told a therapist he was a "bad person" and a born liar. With a mother who was a drug addict and a father in prison, Gabriel's world was one of turmoil in which he was both a victim and a potential threat to other children.

His behavior had been spiraling out of control for weeks until he brought an end to his short, tragic life. He locked himself in a bathroom at his Margate foster home and hanged himself. He apparently was upset because he didn't want soup for lunch.

The sad details of the last 10 months of Gabriel's life came out Friday night as the state Department of Children & Families released more than 1,400 pages of reports, e-mails and notes related to the boy. The records show child welfare agencies had extensive dealings with Gabriel, including weekly in-home therapy sessions.

The day before his April 16 hanging, a therapist saw him, observing that "his acting out behaviors are becoming more severe and include the destruction of property and the need to restrain him." The therapist wrote that there were no indications he was suicidal, according to the April 15 report.

During the last three months of his life, Gabriel had "experienced numerous significant events that, in combination, may have contributed to his mental status" when he killed himself, concluded a 14-page DCF report released along with Gabriel's case file. Among the changes in his life:

He had to be quickly transferred to the Margate house in March after he threatened to harm a toddler at the foster home where he had been living for five months.

A judge terminated his mother's rights to see him. He had visited her while she was in the Broward County Click here for restaurant inspection reports Jail on drug charges. She is now incarcerated in Ohio.

He had to enroll in a new after-school program and got a new therapist.

Broward authorities first learned of Gabriel in June when his mother, Candace Myers, was found passed-out in a parked car with him in the back seat. Gabriel's grandparents, who raised him most of his life, had brought the boy down from Ohio only weeks earlier after his mother said she wanted him back.

Candace Myers went to jail and Gabriel went into the child welfare system. Gabriel's uncle, Jon Myers, agreed to take his nephew into his family's South Florida home.

But Gabriel's behavioral issues were too much for his uncle to handle, records show. In particular, Gabriel told his uncle that he was inappropriately touching girls at school. Records indicate Gabriel apparently had been molested by an older boy while living in Ohio.

Jon Myers removed Gabriel from school, saying he didn't want to endanger other children, records show. In October, Myers told child welfare officials that he could no longer be responsible for Gabriel. He echoed that sentiment in an e-mail Saturday to the Sun-Sentinel.

"After consulting with his counselor, it became apparent that the severity of Gabriel's problems were beyond our capacity, and we believed he needed to be placed in a residential treatment facility with 24 hour supervision," Myers wrote.

Gabriel was moved to a foster home that consisted of him, a toddler and a foster dad. The foster dad wrote extensive e-mails to Gabriel's child advocate, detailing his behavior. Gabriel exposed himself to another boy, forged his foster dad's name on a teacher's note and was caught repeatedly lying and stealing, records show.

His time in that foster home came to an end in March when he went into a rage, trashed his room and threatened to hurt his foster dad and the toddler, records show. After the March 17 incident, a psychiatrist prescribed the powerful mind-altering drug Symbyax.

Records indicate Gabriel started taking the drug even though there appears to be no court order in place. Under Florida law, parental consent or a judge's ruling is needed before a foster child can be administered a psychotropic drug.

DCF spokeswoman Leslie Mann said it's rare for a judge to challenge a prescription made by a psychiatrist.

Gabriel's final stop was the Margate foster home. He was there for less than four weeks.

"The most stable relationship in his life at this time appears to be with his teacher," his therapist wrote in an April 2 report. "Many caregivers [foster parents/therapist/aftercare/foster siblings] have all just changed. He is having nightmares and problems falling asleep thinking of his mother in jail."

Jon Burstein can be reached at or 954-356-4491.


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