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Questions remain after Noble girl's suicide

BY MICHAEL BAKER Published: March 21, 2010

We
eds stick up between several cracks in the driveway and the garage door has several rotted wooden panels.

Both Janice and Darrell Wilcoxson had battled drug addiction, said Darrell’s father, Don Wilcoxson. After his son’s death, Janice Wilcoxson continued the struggle, he said.

Janice Wilcoxson has gone to a clinic once a week for at least three years to get methadone to fight her addiction, Don Wilcoxson said.

Don and Kay Wilcoxson describe themselves as estranged from Stephanie’s mother, Janice.

Janice Wilcoxson did not return several phone calls made by The Oklahoman.

Stephanie’s death
Authorities found Stephanie dead in her home on the afternoon of Dec. 23. According to the autopsy report, Stephanie had become injured or ill Dec. 17.

Stephanie’s body was decomposed and showed signs of partial mummification, but no visible signs of trauma. Stephanie was wearing a purple T-shirt with a "butterfly designed print on the front,” according to the autopsy report completed by pathologist Chai S. Choi.

Stephanie had been dead for several days before her mother called police, OSBI’s Brown said.

When officers arrived, Janice Wilcoxson was "mentally disturbed” and said Stephanie had committed suicide, according to a Noble police report.

Keith Wilcoxson, Stephanie’s uncle, said a law enforcement agent told him that there were signs that Janice also tried to kill herself by slicing her wrist.

The Christmas Eve autopsy concluded Steph-anie’s death was suicide caused by "acute methadone intoxication.”

"The conclusion is based on the comments made at the scene from the family members that were there,” the evidence collected by medical examiner’s office, investigators at the scene and the high levels of methadone in the system, said Cherokee Ballard, spokeswoman for the state medical examiner’s office.

Children and suicide
While death by methadone overdose is not rare, the suicide of an 11-year-old is uncommon, but that also is changing, said Tom Taylor, executive director of HeartLine, which offers a suicide prevention program for central Oklahoma.

"It’s kind of unusual for an 11-year-old to do that,” Taylor said. "But the second leading cause of death between the ages 10 to 24 in the state of Oklahoma is death by suicide.”

Taylor said a family member’s suicide doesn’t necessarily make another family member more susceptible to suicide.

"That’s part of the stigma that people think about suicide — if we talk about suicide, people are going to complete it,” he said. "Some family suicides actually insulate and protect other family members because they first hand witness the pain that the family left behind goes through.”

The investigation continues
Stephanie’s death has left behind a large amount of pain and questions that many hope further investigation will answer.

The OSBI is progressing, but still wants to do more interviews, Brown said.

"I think we’re in the wrapping-up stages,” Brown said. "That could mean a few more weeks; that could mean a month.”

Stephanie’s grandparents said they are willing to wait for answers. They can’t believe the 11-year-old girl in the butterfly shirt would end her own life.

"She was not a troubled child at all,” Don Wilcoxson said of the girl. "Stephanie was not a girl that was going to commit suicide. There’s just no way, shape or form.”

Kay Wilcoxson added: "I just cannot figure her taking methadone ... She was looking forward to Christmas.”

NewsOK.com has disabled the comments for this article.

Suicide
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 24 in Oklahoma, according to statistics from HeartLine, a suicide prevention program for central Oklahoma. The group formed in 1971 and provides suicide prevention outreach and listening and crisis intervention.


For more information on the program visit www.heartlineoklahoma.org.


For a suicide crisis, call (800) 273-8255.

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