Autopsy proves foster child hanged himself; why is a mystery

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Date: 2009-10-30

The autopsy on 7-year-old foster child concludes Gabriel Myers hanged himself, though his reasons will forever remain unknown.

BY CAROL MARBIN MILLER

Gabriel Myers, the 7-year-old foster child whose death sparked a statewide inquiry, died of asphyxiation after hanging himself, the Broward medical examiner's office has ruled, though authorities say they will never know whether the youngster meant to kill himself.

Weeks before Gabriel roped a shower cord around his neck in the bathroom of his Margate foster home on April 16, the little boy choked himself at school, the report noted.

"Although the investigation suggests that he alone took the actions that resulted in his death, his psychiatric history suggests that this fatality may represent a tragically flawed attempt [at] self-injury for secondary gain," states the ME's report, written by Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Stephen J. Cina.

Gabriel entered state care in June 2008 after police found him in a parked car with his mother, who had passed out behind the wheel.

Police found an abundance of Xanax and other prescription drugs in the car. Authorities suspected Gabriel had been abused, as he had bruises, bites and other marks on his body.

One of the key issues prompting DCF's detailed review of his death was the administration of several powerful mood-altering drugs on the boy, including two -- an anti-psychotic and an anti-depressant -- linked by the FDA to an increased risk of suicide among children.

In his report, Cina concludes there is no way to determine whether the medications were linked to Gabriel's death.

"While several medications in [Gabriel's] blood have been associated with an increased risk of suicide in some cohorts, it cannot be proven that their presence played a role in this fatality," Cina wrote.

Cina's report states a "well-documented absence" of suicidal thinking on Gabriel's part as evidence that the boy may have meant only to gain attention when he wrapped the shower cord around his neck. Cina cites a 29-page report on the boy's death by a work group appointed by DCF Secretary George Sheldon.

But a timeline of the boy's case -- also prepared by the work group, though not attached to the final report -- states that on March 31 Gabriel's caseworker received a call from the boy's school saying that "he was out of control and destroying school property and stating that he wanted to kill himself."

That same day, progress notes say, Gabriel was taken to his psychiatrist, who said the boy did not have any thoughts of killing himself or others.

The autopsy report documents several bruises on the boy's body, including "extensive" bruising along Gabriel's legs.

A Margate police detective investigating the boy's death said Thursday that an expert who consulted on the case attributed the bruises to the normal activities of an active boy.

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