Mother of 8-year-old suicide victim: 'I feel robbed'

Posted at 9:47 PM, May 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-13 00:16:56-04

CINCINNATI -- Gabriel Taye's life wasn't just stolen from him the night he took his own life, his mother, Cordelia Reynolds, wrote in a statement Friday night. It was stolen from her, too. 

"If I could, I would give anything to have him back," she wrote. "I feel he was cheated. I feel robbed. My only child, my best friend and my first true love isn't here with us physically, but I know he's here in spirit."

Eight-year-old Taye, a Carson School student whom Reynolds described as "a shining light to everyone who knew and loved him," hanged himself Jan. 26 after what his family and their legal team claims was an incident of severe physical bullying at school two days before.

In choppy security footage provided by Cincinnati Public Schools, Taye collapses to the ground in a boys' bathroom at Carson after reaching a hand out to another boy. He lies motionless on the floor for several minutes, other students appearing to step over or perhaps kick his body, before adults arrive to check on him. 

According to Reynolds' attorney Jennifer Branch, that video depicts an attack on Taye: After he extended his hand to the second boy, she said, that boy beat him so severely he lost consciousness. When Reynolds arrived to pick him up from school that day, she was told only that he had fainted; if she had known he was beaten, she said, she would have taken him out of school and to the hospital.

Cincinnati Public Schools has disputed Reynolds' claim as well as her interpretation of the footage, but the force of renewed public attention to Taye's death led Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco to call for a new investigation Thursday. Taye's initial autopsy has been thrown out; another will be conducted to determine whether he had injuries consistent with physical bullying. 

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters also said Friday night that his office is investigating the possibility of filing criminal charges in connection to Taye's death.

In the meantime, Reynolds wrote, she can only work to make her son's story known and to help other parents reach out to children who might be dealing with bullies.

"I will fight every day, every second of every minute," she wrote. "I am my son's voice and it will be heard. As Gabe's mother, it's my obligation to make sure that this will never happen again. No, this will not go away.

"People need to know the truth and help fix this epidemic in our society by spreading awareness and speaking up. Parents, it's OK to tell your children to reach for help when someone is hurting them, whether it's at school, outside, home, or anywhere."