Oklahoma teen Nex Benedict’s cause of death revealed in autopsy report

Editor's note: If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, addictive tendencies, stress and other mental health issues, you can call or text 988, Oklahoma's Mental Health Hotline, or call 911.  

An Oklahoma teen whose death sparked widespread outrage and calls for change died of an overdose, authorities said Wednesday.

Nex Benedict was pronounced dead Feb. 8, one day after being injured in an altercation inside an Owasso High School bathroom. A summary autopsy report concluded the 16-year-old died of toxicity from diphenhydramine, an antihistamine, and fluoxetine, an anti-depression medication. The medical examiner ruled the teen died by suicide, and that the full report would be released in about 10 business days.

The findings cap weeks of speculation over how the teen died, but many questions remain unanswered about the fight that preceded Nex’s death.

Nex had been bullied in the past over their gender expansive identity, which did not align with societal stereotypes. Nex, a descendant of the Choctaw Nation, used the pronouns he, him, they and them, friends and relatives have said.

A memorial for Nex Benedict is pictured outside Owasso High School in February.
A memorial for Nex Benedict is pictured outside Owasso High School in February.

More: After Nex's death, former LGBTQ+ students say Owasso has troubling history of bullying

Ryan Walters, Owasso police release statements regarding Nex Benedict autopsy results

Ryan Walters, state schools superintendent, sent The Oklahoman the following statement:

"The loss of our student in Owasso is tragic for the family, the community, and our state," Walters said. "The LGBTQ groups pushing a false narrative are one of the biggest threats to our democracy and I remain, more than ever, committed to never backing down from a woke mob."

In the wake of Nex's death, many LGBTQ+ advocates blamed rhetoric from Walters and Libs of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik for fueling hate toward Oklahoma's LGBTQ+ community.

The Owasso Police Department posted a statement regarding the medical examiner’s findings to Facebook on Wednesday afternoon:

"From the beginning of this investigation, Owasso Police observed many indications that this death was the result of suicide. However, investigators did not wish to confirm that information without the final results being presented by the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office."

Jacob Biby, a lawyer for the teen’s family, did not immediately return messages regarding the medical examiner’s conclusions.

Police investigation into circumstances around Nex Benedict's death continues

In the past, the teen's family had said they were troubled by the basic facts of what happened, even while they were waiting for more information.

“While at Owasso High School, Nex was attacked and assaulted in a bathroom by a group of other students,” the family said in a statement released by Biby. “A day later, the Benedict’s beautiful child lost their life.”

Police are separately investigating what led up to the fight in the school bathroom, including whether the teen was targeted in an act of gender-based violence.

More: What we know about death of Oklahoma teen Nex Benedict after beating in school bathroom

Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, reiterated a call for "a full and complete investigation" into Nex's death.

"Nex died one day after being beaten unconscious in a school bathroom, and following more than a year of bullying and harassment at school," Robinson said. "This is heartbreaking. And we have heard from so many parents and students that this culture of bullying and harassment is both pervasive at Owasso Public Schools and that many within the school had actual knowledge that it was occurring and took no steps to fix it."

Federal civil rights investigators in the U.S. Department of Education have also said they will look into allegations that the school failed to adequately address past instances of sex-based bullying.

Nex told a school resource officer that the bathroom fight started because a group of girls they did not know were making fun of the way the teen and their friends dressed and laughed. Police released a recording of the conversation captured by the officer’s body camera.

More: Officials offer more details about events at Owasso High School a day before student's death

Their death has led to national scrutiny over the safety of transgender and gay children in Oklahoma, with particular criticism focused on rhetoric espoused by Walters. He promoted a new state rule that requires schools to get approval from the Oklahoma State Board of Education before changing a child’s gender in official records.

Kody Macaulay holds a sign outside Owasso High School during a February demonstration in honor of Nex Benedict. Dozens of people called on school and state officials to better protect LGBTQ+ students.
Kody Macaulay holds a sign outside Owasso High School during a February demonstration in honor of Nex Benedict. Dozens of people called on school and state officials to better protect LGBTQ+ students.

More than 350 organizations and public figures signed on to a letter calling on Walters to be removed. Vice President Kamala Harris and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona have both spoken out in response to Nex’s death.

Owasso school officials have refused to disclose whether the school had received past reports involving the bullying of Nex. District spokesman Brock Crawford said all reports of bullying are investigated and denied allegations that any such reports were mishandled. He said school officials will cooperate with the federal investigation.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Contributing: Murray Evans, The Oklahoman

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Nex Benedict autopsy report reveals suicide as cause of death