Here are four updates for the re-investigation into the Jan. 26 suicide death of 8-year-old Gabriel Taye of Westwood.
1. THE CORONER
Gabriel's body was exhumed Wednesday so county investigators reinvestigating his Jan. 26 suicide death could obtain his tablet computer. His mother had tucked the device into his casket “to make sure he had something to play with in heaven.”
In a statement, Gabriel’s family said they agreed to the exhumation “hoping that a forensic examination of Gabe’s tablet will shed light on what happened.” The family also asked for a re-examination of the boy’s body as well, but the casket's vault could not be lifted from the grave to go to the coroner’s office due to water damage.
“Unfortunately, the re-examination was not possible,” the statement said. “Gabe’s family is heartbroken that he had to be disturbed from his resting place. However, his parents consented to the exhumation because they are so desperate for answers.”
Last month, as part of its examination of the Cincinnati region's outbreak in youth suicide, The Enquirer reported on Gabriel, a second-grader at Carson Elementary School in West Price Hill. In the coroner’s first investigation, a police detective reviewed a school security camera video taken Jan. 24, two days before Gabriel’s death.
The video shows Gabriel entering a Carson Elementary restroom, encountering another boy and falling to the floor. He lay there, not moving, for more than six minutes as other children passed him by or touched him or kicked him. An assistant principal rushed to the scene and with the help of another adult, roused Gabriel, who walked away under his own power.
Gabriel’s mother, Cornelia Reynolds, has said through her lawyers that the nurse at Carson Elementary telephoned her later that day to pick up Gabriel. Reynolds says the nurse said Gabriel fainted.
Later that night, Gabriel vomited, and Reynolds took him to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He was treated as a case of stomach flu, came home early Jan. 25, stayed home all that day and went back to school Jan. 26. That night, at home in his bedroom, he hanged himself.
A day after Gabriel’s death, pathologist Dr. Dorothy Dean in the coroner’s office performed an autopsy and found Gabriel’s body normal in every way except for the fatal ligature around his neck.
A week after Gabriel’s death, Detective Eric Karguleff concluded in a written report to Carson Elementary leadership that the scene appeared to him to be an example of bullying bordering on criminal assault.
After The Enquirer’s report on Karaguleff’s letter, Cincinnati Public Schools released the video. The day after that, Sammarco announced the reopening of the case. The day after that, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said his office was “all over” the matter.
2. THE PROSECUTOR
Deters assigned his first assistant prosecutor, Mark Piepmeier, to assist Sammarco in the second investigation.
Lawyer Jennifer Branch of Cincinnati, who is representing Cornelia Reynolds, said Wednesday that Gabriel’s tablet computer has been turned over to the prosecutor’s office.
3. THE SCHOOLS
Where a police detective saw bullying, school system leadership saw a fainting. When the video was released, Mary Ronan, who is retiring as superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools Aug. 1, told WCPO that suggesting that Gabriel was bullied in school is “a falsehood.”
“When you look at the video, we see no link between bullying and the suicide. If you look at the video – and we have frame by frame – it appears the young man fainted,” Ronan told WCPO.
The superintendent also said other Carson Elementary 8-year-olds who saw Gabriel on the restroom floor have expressed anxiety that they caused his death. Ronan said the children had been unfairly accused and “for the rest of their lives may need therapy.”
Ronan wasn't available for an interview with The Enquirer. CPS spokeswoman Janet Walsh said that after Ronan went public with her views, the prosecutor’s office called and directed Ronan not to speak about the matter while the coroner had reopened Gabriel’s case. Julie Wilson, Deters’ spokeswoman, said she made that call to CPS.
Gabriel’s mother, through Branch, rejected the system’s conclusion that her son had simply fainted. “Gabe’s mother has been searching for answers since she learned Gabe was knocked unconscious two days before he died,” her Wednesday statement said. “Her grief has been compounded by the school withholding critical information from her. She is disappointed that a re-examination was not possible but hopes his tablet will yield some answers.”
4. THE POLICE
The author of the police video report, Karaguleff, is a 21-year veteran of the Cincinnati Police Department who has worked homicide cases for nine years. Karaguleff has declined requests for interviews, through CPD spokesman Lt. Steve Saunders.
Copyright: Cincinnati Enquirer