DANVILLE, Ill. — A Vermilion County, Ill., family is in mourning after discovering that their daughter, 10-year-old Ashlynn Conner was found dead hanging in her closet in what the local coroner, Peggy Johnson, described as an apparent suicide.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Ashlynn’s family said she had been teased by children at Ridge Farm Elementary School and in her neighborhood in the small town for several years. Ridge Farm is about 45 miles southeast of Champaign.
“When she started cheering for youth football, we’d gotten her hair cut in a bob,” Ashlynn’s grandmother, Lory Hackney said.
“The kids started making fun of her then. They started calling her a boy.” Since then, she’d often been called fat or ugly, her family said.
County Sheriff Pat Hartshorn said investigators are considering bullying as a possibility. “We are not ruling out bullying, but we don’t have any firm evidence to support bullying,” he said.
Ashlynn was a fifth-grader at Ridge Farm and did well in school, her family said, making the honor roll in the most recent quarter. She talked about becoming a veterinarian when she grew up.
But she complained Thursday after school about other girls picking on her that day and asked if she could be home-schooled, her mother said at a candlelight service for her daughter at a local church. Conner said she told Ashlynn they’d talk to the school principal this week about the problem.
Conner said she heard her daughter on the phone with a friend Friday night talking about being teased. A half-hour later, Ashlynn’s 14-year-old sister found her hanging in her bedroom closet, Conner said.
“I don’t know what was so bad she couldn’t wait,” Hackney said. She’s a retired nurse and tried to give her granddaughter CPR, she said.
The medical examiner noted that the final autopsy results may take a few weeks.
Experts say that incidents of suicides among young children under the age of 14 is uncommon but does happen hundreds of times a year.
Statistics from the Illinois Department of Health revealed that in 2009, three children in Illinois — one who was 10 and two aged 11 — killed themselves over a three-week period. The deaths weren’t related.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 200 children between the ages of 10 and 14 killed themselves each year between 1999 and 2005, the most recent year for which data is available.