Nex Benedict’s Full Autopsy Leaves Questions Unanswered, Advocates Say

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Authorities in Oklahoma released the complete autopsy and toxicology report in the case of Nex Benedict on Wednesday, as LGBTQ+ and civil rights advocacy groups reiterated calls for an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding 16-year-old nonbinary student’s February death.

“The full report does little to fill in the gaps in information about that day or the more than a year of bullying and harassment that led up to it,” Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “It does not answer the questions of so many in Oklahoma and across the country.”

The full 11-page report released by the Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner maintains that Benedict’s death was, as previously reported, a suicide by “combined toxicity” of two drugs, brand names Prozac and Benedryl. The report details the amounts of both the antidepressant and antihistamine found in Benedict’s system upon their Feb. 9 autopsy.

It does not specify the reasons why the medical examiner ruled the overdose a suicide, but it does outline the 10th grader’s medical history, noting that they had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. They had self-harmed in the past, and struggled with both tobacco and marijuana abuse, it states.

“Handwritten notes that are suggestive of self-harm were found in the decedent’s room by family and provided to law enforcement,” the report adds.

Benedict, who used both gender-neutral and masculine pronouns, died hours after being hospitalized on Feb. 8. They were “reported to have headaches and seizure-like activity before being found unresponsive,” according to the report. “Emergency personnel were notified, cardiopulmonary resuscitation efforts were attempted,” unsuccessfully.

The report notes that Benedict’s “antemortem history” included a recent “physical altercation.” It notes that the teenager had sustained extensive injuries to their head, neck, torso, and limbs in that fight. Those injuries were not lethal, according to the report.

A day before Benedict’s death, they were involved in a fight in a bathroom at Owasso High School with three girls. “According to witnesses, the fight was less than one minute in duration after Benedict poured water over two girls while they were in the bathroom,” Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen Kunzweiler said in a statement last week. “Apparently, comments were directed about how Benedict laughed, which was followed by the water pouring incident.”

In that statement, Kunzweiler said he’d pored over “all of the evidence gathered” by the medical examiner and Owasso police, and had decided not to pursue charges in the case, noting that the fight had been “an instance of mutual combat.”

Relatives said in the wake of Benedict’s death that they had suffered extensive bullying at school. In a Feb. 7 body-camera video released a few weeks later by police, Benedict describes the circumstances leading up to the fight. In the bathroom, “I was talking with my friends, they were talking with their friends and we were laughing,” they say in the video. “And they had said something like, ‘Why do they laugh like that?’ And they were talking about us in front of us.”

Benedict said they poured water on the other students and the situation escalated, becoming physical. They said they were thrown to the ground and beaten before the fight was broken up by others.

Nicole McAfee, the executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, said in a statement that the full report offered “almost no additional information” and did “nothing to change the fundamental injustice of the situation.

“Nex Benedict was a 16 year-old Indigenous student at an Oklahoma school who was relentlessly bullied for his transness for over a year, and who died the day after being physically beaten in a school bathroom,” they said. “Nex is a 16 year-old, who should still be alive. But isn’t.”

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis added in a statement that the report could not be allowed to stand as “a conclusion of the investigation” into Benedict’s death.

“Oklahoma’s supposed leaders must still provide answers to the public about the state-sponsored bullying by legislation, the inadequate response to violence in a school bathroom, and all the failures to keep Nex safe that continue to endanger LGBTQ and [two-spirit, transgender, and gender nonconforming] people in Oklahoma,” she said.

The Human Rights Campaign, Freedom Oklahoma, and GLAAD all called for further accountability

All three organizations demanded further “justice and accountability,” as Robinson put it, calling for a more thorough investigation “into the district, state superintendent Ryan Walters, the Oklahoma State Department of Education, and into their response after Nex was attacked.”

Benedict’s family previously said through their lawyers that they planned to conduct an independent investigation into the case. They had no further comment on Wednesday.

If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing or texting 988.

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