TDoR 2024 / 2024 / February / 08 / Nex Benedict

Nex Benedict

Age 16 (born 11 Jan 2008)

8 Feb 2024
Owasso, Oklahoma (USA)
Beaten, then died from an overdose

Nex Benedict
Nex Benedict [photo:]

Nex died the day after being beaten in a school bathroom.

Nex Benedict (they/them) was a 16-year-old nonbinary youth living in Oklahoma. They endured a reportedly vicious beating in a high school bathroom of Owasso High School, Nex died the next day in the hospital. They were a sophomore. This was February 7 and 8th. Last week, Nex was in high school. This week, they were buried.

According to KJRH three older girls were beating on the victim and her daughter in the girl’s bathroom.

“I know at one point, one of the girls was pretty much repeatedly beating their head across the floor,” she [a witness] said.

That’s when she said a teacher walked in and broke it up.

“Nex couldn’t walk to the nurses’ station on their own, and staff didn’t call the ambulance, which amazes me,” she said. The woman told 2 News the victim’s grandmother, who they primarily lived with, brought them to the hospital after the fight. She said the victim was released that evening but was brought back the next day and died.

Local police are investigating, but have not issued a statement or identified the victim. There is also no confirmation may of the details – how many students were involved in the assault, how many victims, what was the sequence of events, what’s been Nex’s school experience. We don’t know that being nonbinary is what triggered the assault.

We do know that nonbinary identity is often a factor or predictor of vulnerability to bullying and abuse.

Nex was born on January 11, 2008, in El Paso, Texas. They grew up in Owasso, Oklahoma. Nex was a sophomore at Owasso High School. According to family, Nex identified as nonbinary and used they/them pronouns.

According to the obituary, Nex was a nature lover. They enjoyed caring for cats but particularly loved their cat, Zeus. Dagny also enjoyed watching the Walking Dead, drawing, reading, and playing Ark and Minecraft. During the funeral, their family said they loved to cook and would often make up their own recipes. Dex was also a straight-A student.

No charges were filed against the three students who assaulted Nex.

Oklahoma state authorities are viewed by many as being responsible for promoting a climate of fear among young LGBTQ+ people and potentially contributing to incidents such as the one in which he was beaten:

Vigils were held across the nation in honor of Nex, who has a Choctaw heritage. The diverse crowd I witnessed at the Oklahoma City vigil was so large that I could barely hear the speakers. Nex's death, which the Oklahoma State Medical Examiners office ruled to be a suicide on March 14, must be viewed within the context of vicious attacks on LGBTQ+ youth by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters and Governor Kevin Stitt as well as the fifty-plus Republican legislative bills attacking LBGTQ+ rights across the country.

Since he was elected in 2019, Governor Stitt has signed laws that restrict access to public school bathrooms; ban health care for transgender people under eighteen; ban transgender girls and women from school sports; and prohibit Oklahomans from obtaining nonbinary gender markers on official documents. He also signed, as the LGTBQ+ rights group GLAAD reported, “an executive order that defunds diversity, equity, and inclusion offices and programs in state agencies, including public colleges.”

Walters has a similar record: He has depicted transgender students as a threat in schools, and approved a permanent rule change that requires schools to get state approval before altering gender markers in a student’s records. Walters has advocated for book bans and described LGBTQ+-themed books as “pornographic material.” He also appointed Chaya Raichik, the founder of anti-LGBTQ+ social media account Libs of TikTok, to the education department’s Library Media Advisory Committee.

Beyond Walters and Stitt, state representatives have also spread hateful rhetoric in recent months. State Senator Tom Woods, for example, called LGBTQ+ Oklahomans “filth” during a panel.

While digesting this it is worth noting that Nex would not even have been in the girl's bathroom if the state had inclusive bathroom policies.

Although the Oklahoma State Medical Examiners office initially ruled Nex's death to have been suicide this was reversed following an autopsy which concluded that his body had elevated levels of antidepressant and antihistimine medications, with the latter being the greater concern.

The much-anticipated full autopsy report for Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old transgender and Indigenous student from Owasso High School in Oklahoma who died in February, was released Wednesday, offering a more comprehensive understanding of the events leading to his tragic death.

Benedict used he, him, they, and them pronouns. Benedict’s death had previously been classified as a suicide by the Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, citing combined toxicity from fluoxetine and diphenhydramine as the cause.

Benedict had endured bullying and an assault at school, which had raised significant questions about the environment in which he lived and the protection offered to LGBTQ+ youth.

The full autopsy report delves into greater detail than the initial one-page summary previously released, providing insight into the physical injuries Benedict sustained and the levels of medication present in their system at the time of death.

Despite the traumatic experiences Benedict faced, including the physical assault the day before his death, the report highlighted that there were no lethal injuries, including an absence of injuries to the brain. This detail is significant, revealing the fact that the physical trauma observed on Benedict’s body, which included nonlethal injuries like bruises, cuts, and scrapes, did not extend to brain damage. These findings shift the focus towards a combination of medications found in Benedict’s system at the time of death. Specifically, toxicology results pinpointed the cause of death to the combined effects of fluoxetine, an antidepressant, and diphenhydramine, an antihistamine that is also commonly used as a sleep aid. According to the report, the levels of these drugs were significantly higher than therapeutic ranges.

The Advocate consulted Dr. Joshua King, the medical director of the Maryland Poison Center, to better understand the toxicology results. King said that while the fluoxetine values weren’t necessarily alarming, the diphenhydramine amount was.

“The fluoxetine levels aren’t dramatically elevated, but the diphenhydramine ones are,” King said. “That would be in a range compatible with other reports of patients dying from diphenhydramine overdose.” He noted that a person suffering from a fatal overdose would usually suffer seizures, cardiac arrhythmias, or both. According to the report, first responders reported finding written communication attributed to Benedict that contributed to the medical examiner’s impression of self-harm.

Bruises, scratches, and cuts to Benedict’s face, while not contributing directly to his death, according to the report, paint a vivid picture of the struggles he endured. The documentation of medical interventions attempted before Benedict’s death, including resuscitation efforts evident from the injuries related to CPR, highlights the efforts made to save his life.

Report added: 24 Feb 2024. Last updated: 12 May 2024

Trigger warning

This site contains reports of violence against transgender people, and links to detailed reports which contain graphic imagery.

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