No Charges in Death of Nex Benedict, Prosecutor Says


The Tulsa County district attorney said on Thursday that no charges would be brought in the Oklahoma high school fight last month that involved a nonbinary student, Nex Benedict, who died by suicide the next day.

The district attorney, Stephen A. Kunzweiler, announced his decision in a three-page letter that gave the fullest official account yet of the Feb. 7 fight at Owasso High School, the student’s death and the findings of a weekslong police investigation.

“From all of the evidence gathered, this fight was an instance of mutual combat,” Mr. Kunzweiler wrote. “I do not have a reasonable belief that the State of Oklahoma could sustain its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt if charges were presented for prosecution.”

The fight, which took place in a girls’ bathroom, gained national attention after Nex’s death drew outrage from gay and transgender rights groups. They connected the death to the physical altercation and to what family members said was bullying at school.

Earlier this month, the state medical examiner released the results of its examination and found that Nex had died from “combined toxicity” of diphenhydramine, an antihistamine commonly used for allergies, and fluoxetine, a drug often used to treat depression. The autopsy did not show evidence of any internal injury from the fight, Mr. Kunzweiler wrote. The medical examiner’s office listed the manner of death as suicide.

“An important part of the Owasso Police Department’s investigation was the discovery of some brief notes, written by Benedict, which appeared to be related to the suicide,” the district attorney wrote.

He added that the notes “do not make any reference to the earlier fight or difficulties at school,” but that family members said Nex had been “picked upon for various reasons while at school.”

The investigation involved police interviews with seven students and six school staff members, Mr. Kunzweiler wrote. He said that the parents of another “two children” either did not permit an interview or “were in the process of consulting with an attorney.”

The two groups of students involved in the fight, one of which included Nex, did not appear to know each other before they were placed into an “in-school suspension” class together, Mr. Kunzweiler wrote. But he said they had begun “antagonizing each other in the days leading up to the fight.” No reports were made to the school, the district attorney said.

The fight in the bathroom lasted less than a minute and began after “comments were directed about how Benedict laughed,” Mr. Kunzweiler wrote, and Nex responded by pouring water over two girls while they were in the bathroom.

In an interview with a police officer from a hospital bed later that day, Nex described the altercation: “They grabbed onto my hair. I grabbed onto them. I threw one of them into a paper towel dispenser, then they got my legs out from under me and got me on the ground,” Nex said in a video of the interview released by the police. “My friends tried to jump in and help, but I’m not sure, I blacked out.”

A lawyer representing Nex’s family, Jacob Biby, said the family would have no comment about the district attorney’s decision.

Mr. Kunzweiler said in his letter that fights were unfortunately common, and that not all resulted in criminal charges. He called Nex’s death a tragedy.

“The reasons why any person commits suicide do not provide answers to those who are left behind,” he wrote.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.

Edgar Sandoval contributed reporting.



Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top