The boy who hanged himself in a Broward County foster home had acted out sexually in front of others and showed signs of other behavior problems, a report said.
BY CAROL MARBIN MILLER
At age 7, Gabriel Myers was already well on his way to becoming a sexual predator.
He had exposed himself to classmates. He had kissed another boy. And his uncle warned child-welfare administrators Gabriel had described what he wanted to do with several little girls at his Christian private school.
Gabriel, who may himself have been sexually molested by another boy in Ohio before moving to South Florida, had been on several strong psychiatric drugs before he hanged himself last week at a Margate foster home.
A portrait of the brown-haired boy is contained in some 2,000 pages of documents released by the Department of Children and Families last week.
Since Gabriel’s death, administrators at ChildNet, Broward’s private foster care agency, under contract with DCF, have refused to discuss the case.
Earlier this week, DCF’s Broward chief, Jack Moss, declined to discuss the sex abuse allegations, citing a federal law protecting medical records.
Gabriel entered foster care on June 29, 2008, when his mother, Candace Myers, was found nearly unconscious in her car in a Denny’s parking lot. With her: Gabriel, along with an ”extensive amount” of Xanax and other prescription narcotics, records say.
There is no question that, in coming months, Gabriel received much of what the fields of psychology and psychiatry have to offer, including nearly 20 assessments, in-home therapy sometimes twice each week, visits from a mobile crisis team and psychotropic drugs. But his behaviors continued.
On Oct. 10, DCF’s abuse hot line received two separate reports about the boy. In one, an investigator was told Gabriel had been ‘molesting other children at school. He has been kissing them `anywhere he can’ and touching them on their vaginas and ‘behinds’ with his hand.”
The second report said “Gabriel has been kissing and rubbing on girls at school. He has been feeling between their legs, touching their rears and hugging them.”
The hot line also was told that Gabriel’s uncle, Jon Myers, had spanked Gabriel on his bottom with a belt, leaving marks; Myers acknowledged the paddling, and Gabriel later told an investigator he was spanked ”because I got kicked out of [school] for touching girls.” Corporal punishment is forbidden on children in state care.
Gabriel later began treatment at The Chrysalis Center, a Fort Lauderdale program specializing in sexually abused children.
”Gabriel has been exhibiting sexual behaviors. He kissed a classmate, exposed himself, and also stated that two boys held him down, and did something to him,” the Chrysalis report said. “There were concerns regarding sexual abuse when he was initially removed from his mother’s care.”
The behaviors, a therapist wrote, were ”severe,” occurring three to four times per week.
Goals in his treatment: ”eliminate his sexual acting out,” and “increase impulse control.”
A 12-page report written by a therapist at Chrysalis said Jon and Liz Myers, Gabriel’s aunt and uncle, gave up custody of the boy because “they were no longer able to adequately care for the youth in light of his reported sexualized behaviors at school [and] non-compliance with household rules.”
Myers recalls telling Gabriel’s counselors at ChildNet he had grave fears that Gabriel would molest other children, which prompted him to pull the boy from a private school. Gabriel had disclosed to his therapist, Craig Handwerker, and Myers the names of little girls he wanted to touch and exactly where he wanted to touch them, Myers said.
”They couldn’t watch him in the bathroom at school. They couldn’t watch him on the playground,” Myers told The Miami Herald. “They couldn’t watch him 24 hours a day.”
`OUT OF THEIR MINDS’
When Myers realized they were sending Gabriel to a foster home with a 3-year-old boy, he said, “I thought they were out of their minds.”
Wrote Handwerker in an Oct. 27 letter: “I believe Gabriel needs proper residential treatment which will teach him how to properly control his behavior and to think in a healthy and lawful manner, especially as it related to him attempting to sexually violate children.”
Records are unclear as to specific dates, but Gabriel appears to have later attended both a day-care center and a Margate elementary after leaving Myers’ home.
On Nov. 20, foster care workers wrote an incident report saying “Gabriel showed his private to another boy on the school bus and then Gabriel told the boy to show his private to him.”
Four days later, reports say, caseworkers amended his ”alert” status in records from simply being a victim of sexual abuse to being a possible perpetrator.
Still, by mid-December. Gabriel had continued to act out sexually in class, touching and exposing himself to other children, records show.
On. Jan. 9, his day-care center documented another incident in which the school bus driver ‘witnessed another boy reaching towards Gabriel’s `private.’ Gabriel reported to the staff member that he had asked the other boy to touch him.”
By April, when the youngster had begun to completely deteriorate, notes show Gabriel “physically hurt a child [and] destroyed the principal’s property.”
A Broward Schools spokesman would not discuss Gabriel’s case, citing the privacy of educational records.
But a schools source told The Miami Herald that ChildNet never alerted the school district to Gabriel’s past, or the profound concerns of his uncle and therapists over his overly sexual behaviors among other children.
”We never heard of him before,” the source said.