Coroner officially rules Ridge Farm girl's death a suicide

Coroner officially rules Ridge Farm girl's death a suicide

DANVILLE — The Vermilion County coroner's office has officially ruled a 10-year-old Ridge Farm's girl's death a suicide after law enforcement officials recently wrapped up their investigation.

Coroner Peggy Johnson said in a statement released Monday morning that she met with Stacy Conner, the mother of Ashlynn Conner, and Vermilion County Sheriff Pat Hartshorn and sheriff's investigators, and after careful review of the investigative reports, ruled Ashlynn's manner of death a suicide due to hanging.

"Unfortunately, as is the case in most suicides, we will never have the answers as to why Ashlynn hung herself," Johnson said in her statement.

Ashlynn, 10, died Nov. 11 at her home in Ridge Farm. Ashlynn's mother and older sister, Michaila Baldwin, 14, and grandparents, Lory and David Hackney, were home at the time and found her body in her room.

The sheriff's department investigated the death and claims by the Conner family that bullying at Ashlynn's school, Ridge Farm Elementary School, and in their neighborhood, played a role in her death. Throughout the investigation, sheriff's officials said they could not find evidence of bullying but were not ruling out the possibility.

On Monday, after releasing the statement, Johnson said she had been waiting for the investigation to conclude and for toxicology test results, which came back clean, before making her formal ruling. Johnson said there will be no inquest, which is held at the discretion of the coroner.

Hartshorn said the investigation reveals that Ashlynn and other 10-years-olds were calling each other names, and that's documented in the investigation. He said there would be no criminal charges pursued against anyone involved in the case.

"But I think it would be a mistake in any suicide to think that there is one cause of a person taking their own life, and I think you have to look at a lot of other factors that may enter into someone taking their life, and we have tried to do that also," Hartshorn said.

In response to whether the investigation revealed any other factors, Hartshorn said in most suicides, unless the deceased left some note or other communication explaining why someone chose to take his or her life, the true reasons are never really known.

"But my experience in handling suicides, it's rarely one factor that leads someone to take their own life," Hartshorn said.

Stacy Conner said Monday that's she's satisfied with the coroner's ruling.

"I just wanted the whole investigation to get over with so I could move on and do my grieving," she said. "I'm happy, but I'm not happy with the investigation."

Conner said investigators did not have enough evidence to prove bullying or disprove it. She said she understands documentation is necessary.

"I still believe in my heart that she was bullied to that point, but it's really hard to prove," she said.

Conner said she doesn't believe any other factors played a part in her daughter's death except bullying.

"That was the only factor. There was just not enough evidence to prove that it happened in the neighborhood and at school," she said.

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Pardon Me wrote on March 20, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Here is a link to a more in depth article from the Chicago Tribune.  Bullying minimized in 10-year-old's suicide.