Broward County

7-year-old boy made death threats

Gabriel Myers, a 7-year-old Broward foster child, hanged himself in his shower in 2009.
Gabriel Myers, a 7-year-old Broward foster child, hanged himself in his shower in 2009. ho

From the Miami Herald archives on April 23, 2009.

Gabriel Myers returned home from school one day the last week of March with marks and bruises on his neck. Questioned by foster-care workers, he insisted a classmate had choked him. He later confessed: He had choked himself. And he said he would try to kill himself again, along with a toddler living in his foster home.

Three weeks later, Gabriel, 7 years old, hanged himself from a shower cord in the bathroom of his foster home in Margate. Now, Broward child welfare administrators are asking whether they could have done more to save the brown-haired youngster.

"When any child dies, it's a horrible, horrible thing, " said Leslie Mann, spokeswoman for the Broward office of the state Department of Children & Families. "When we heard about it, our hearts were in our shoulders with sadness. The death of a 7-year-old boy is unfathomable.

"We are going to work tirelessly until we get to the bottom of this, " Mann said.

In the weeks before his death, Gabriel had been prescribed medications that have been linked to a heightened risk of suicidal behavior in children.

Gabriel's foster care was overseen by ChildNet, a private agency under contract with DCF.

Said Emilio Benitez, ChildNet's chief executive officer: "We feel terrible for the family. It's just a tragedy."

Benitez declined to discuss details of the boy's case, citing the confidentiality of foster care, medical and mental health records in Florida.

According to sources with knowledge of the case, ChildNet administrators received a report in late March that Gabriel returned home from school with bruising around his neck. "However, he tried to blame it on another student, " case notes say.

ChildNet workers called the mobile crisis unit from Henderson Mental Health, a Broward community mental health agency, to the boy's foster home to evaluate whether he should be committed for psychiatric treatment, sources familiar with the records said.