My first offering is Tori Blair Wilson, an 8-year-old from Palestine, East Texas who, on April 17th, 2011, moved her hand…
A Tyler medical examiner has found that 8-year-old Tori Blair Wilson of Palestine died as a result of “asphyxia by hanging,” according to a copy of the girl’s autopsy report obtained by the Herald-Press.
Dr. John A. Stash of the Southeast Texas Forensic Science Center in Tyler has additionally listed the girl’s manner of death as suicide.
Wilson, a second-grader at Westwood Primary School, was found unresponsive shortly after 8:30 p.m. on April 17 in a wooded area near her residence in the 1100 block of CR 4259, northwest of the Palestine city limits, authorities have said.
While referring to Wilson’s manner of death as “disturbing,” Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor said Tuesday that his agency’s investigation concurred with the medical examiner’s finding.
While the sheriff’s office agrees with the medical examiner’s findings, Anderson County Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace James Westley said Monday that he is not ready to list the girl’s manner of death as suicide on her death certificate.
Under state law, Westley will ultimately make the final ruling on the cause and manner of the girl’s death.
“It’s just pending at this point,” Westley told the Herald-Press Monday. “…I’ve requested additional information from the sheriff’s office and the state of Texas.”
Taylor confirmed the autopsy’s description that Wilson was found on her knees leaning forward with a piece of baling wire tied around her neck and connected to a tree branch.
There were “no signs of a struggle” or “jerking around,” according to the sheriff, who also pointed out the single ligature on the girl’s anterior neck was consistent with suicide.
The girl’s toxicology report only showed trace amounts of drugs administered during resuscitative efforts.
The sheriff said eight abrasions and contusions noted on the report were the result of the normal activities of an 8-year-old girl.
The autopsy report also stated that “…according to investigative information the decedent had a history of suicidal ideation and had similarly placed her head and neck in a rope in the presence of a friend in the past in a possibly prior hanging attempt.”
The sheriff said the previous episode was reported to have occurred “within the last year” and not conveyed to authorities at the time of occurrence.
Taylor acknowledged that his investigators received information that the girl had been the target of bullying — possibly as recently as the day of her death — but did not elaborate on what role that might have played in the incident.
“It is disturbing,” Taylor said about the girl’s death. “We’ll never know why. How an 8-year-old can come to that conclusion? Unfortunately, it’s not totally an isolated incident.”
In December 2009, the death of a 6-year-old Oregon girl was ruled a suicide after authorities say she hung herself in her bedroom following an argument with her mother.
Taylor advised parents to be mindful of their children’s “moods, attitudes and dispositions,” saying we now live in a “more stressful” culture.
“I encourage parents to pay attention to them as much as possible,” the sheriff said, “and hopefully they can catch a clue.”