Boy had troubled background, authorities say
By Jon Burstein
MARGATE – A troubled 7-year-old boy appears to have died by hanging from a shower hose in the bathroom of his Margate foster home, Margate police said, citing preliminary autopsy findings.
If Thursday’s death was a suicide, Florida child welfare authorities said, the child’s young age would apparently make such a tragedy unprecedented.
Gabriel Myers had been home sick when he got upset about his lunch and ran to the bathroom, said Leslie Mann, spokeswoman with the Florida Department of Children & Families.
The 19-year-old son of Gabriel’s foster father had been watching the boy. When Gabriel became upset, the young man called the foster mother for advice, Mann said.
The young man then went to check on Gabriel, and reportedly found the boy with the shower hose wrapped around his neck, said Margate police officer Vonley Williams.
The 19-year-old called 911, and paramedics responded at about 1:40 p.m. to the home in the 6500 block of Northwest Ninth Street.
They found Gabriel still breathing. The boy was pronounced dead an hour later at Northwest Medical Center in Margate.
Gabriel’s foster parents as well as their son have been “very cooperative” in the police investigation, Williams said. The foster father is an assistant principal at a school for special needs children, and the foster mother is a registered nurse.
Gabriel’s death left local child welfare officials shaken. About 35 of them met Friday afternoon for two hours to pore over the boy’s case file, Mann said.
“One of the things that we [have been] looking at was whether it was accidental or intentional,” Mann said. “If this was intentional, then it borders on being unheard of and unprecedented for someone his age.”
Gabriel first came on DCF’s radar in June 2008 when his mother was found passed out at a car in Hallandale Beach with him inside, Mann said. He went to live with his aunt and uncle.
In October 2008, Gabriel was placed in foster care after his aunt and uncle felt they weren’t able to handle his behavioral problems. Gabriel would throw severe temper tantrums, according to child welfare officials.
The first set of foster parents concluded they couldn’t provide the care he needed, and he was moved to the Margate home three weeks ago, Mann said. The boy was supposed to move to Ohio in a few weeks to live with his paternal grandfather.
Gabriel’s mother is incarcerated in Ohio and his father’s whereabouts were unknown as of Friday night, Mann said.
The boy had been receiving therapy and psychiatric care, said DCF Southeast Regional Director Jack Moss.
“The indications are that there were no suicidal tendencies recognized by the professionals,” Moss said.
Jon Burstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4491.