Family wants answers in Cody suicide

2013-01-22T23:55:00Z 2013-01-23T16:54:18Z Family wants answers in Cody suicideBy KYLE ROERINK Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
January 22, 2013 11:55 pm  • 

CODY, Wyo. — Kyle Wells was thrown into garbage cans.

Some fellow students at Cody High School laughed at him because of his sexuality.

He was belittled because he was too short. But his friends recall his heart of gold.

"He talked me out of suicide," one friend said.

Kyle was 16 years old, 5 feet tall and gay.

On Oct. 30, 2012, he took his own life.

"He was a lover, not a fighter," said a group of his peers during a community discussion about bullying in Park County School District 6 last month. The students, along with Wells' family, concerned parents and community members, gathered at Cody's Irma Hotel on Dec. 11 to discuss why he committed suicide.

The students, many with cuts on their wrists, spoke about the daily aggression Wells faced at school.

He would go from being bisexual to gay to straight to wanting a sex change.

“One thing this town does is hold onto your past," said Shane Duran, a friend of Kyle's and a sophomore at Cody High School.

Jocks and preps rule the school, students say. Kyle was neither.

The Cody Police Department is still investigating the suicide and declined to comment. The police have Kyle’s journal and suicide note. The investigation is nearly three months old.

Tough start

Kyle had fetal alcohol syndrome. The physical effects weren’t visible. Sharon remembers Kyle struggling with math when he was young. She spent hours with him, repeatedly showing him how to count money into basic change. He also had Russell-Silver syndrome, a birth disorder that limits growth.

At the age of 3, he was adopted by Wells. Her son dated Kyle’s biological mother. Sharon said that after Kyle’s half-brother died while in the care of the mother, the Wyoming Department of Family Services took Kyle away from his mom.

“I went to a lawyer and said, 'I want that baby,'” Sharon said. Even though Kyle wasn't her son's child, Sharon adopted Kyle in 1997, and they had lived together since. Kyle called her "Grandma."

Kyle never knew his real father. His mother is in jail, according to Sharon.

Today Sharon wears a black rubber bracelet with the word REMEMBER printed in large white letters.

“We made them for Kyle,” she said.

Around her neck is a golden replica of Kyle’s tiny thumbprint from birth.

“He was only 3.5 pounds when he was born,” she said.

Life at school

The bullying followed Kyle from grade to grade, according to his friends and family.

Sharon said she went to the district’s middle school at least nine times to report that Kyle was being bullied.

“There’s nothing in the file,” she said.

Park County School District No.6 has no record of Kyle being bullied, said Brandon Jensen, Kyle's high school principal.

The superintendent, school board and high school principal told the Star-Tribune at a Dec. 18 board meeting that they are assessing school and state policy.

Students believe nothing has changed since Kyle's death.

Students won't usually report a bullying problem to administrators, which makes it difficult to address, Jensen said. Many students abide by the “no-snitching” mentality.

Throughout the police investigation, Jensen said, it’s been difficult to find concrete, substantiated information.

At Kyle’s funeral, Sharon was overwhelmed by students who told stories about how Kyle defended classmates in the crosshairs of verbal or physical violence in and out of school.

“He would stand up for everybody but himself,” said Garrytt Melson, a junior at the school. “And he never had time to realize how strong he was inside.”

A few weeks before he died, Kyle confided in Sharon.

“He said, ‘Grandma, I can’t deal with it anymore. Everyone is telling me their problems, and I can’t even deal with my own,'” Sharon said.

The school district didn't send Sharon flowers or offer condolences.

“Our kids are old enough and sophisticated enough to know what bullying is and what it’s not and what’s tolerated and what’s not,” district Superintendent Bryan Monteith said.

How he coped

During the years, Kyle dealt with his problems in a multitude of ways. When he was 13 and 14 he participated in the Navy Seals Cadet program. It teaches the fundamentals of seagoing military services and community service. Kyle received encomiums for his achievements with the cadets, including a letter signed by President Barack Obama. He traveled to California for training on Navy sea vessels. It seemed like a pathway to a promising future. Then he had an argument with the program’s leader.

He quit.

He dabbled in marijuana and alcohol. Two weeks before his death he took a drug test. The results were clean.

He had some run-ins with the law: breaking curfew, playing with airsoft guns and making non-violent mischief.

The police were watching him. Kyle was on probation.

“Where were they when he needed them?” Sharon said.

Dealing with depression

In June 2011 Kyle entered the Wyoming Behavioral Institute after a failed suicide attempt. He was cutting himself and suffering from depression. He left in September 2011. But he continued to cut. He was sent to the Cottonwood Treatment Center in Utah. He left in March 2012 and returned to Park County School District 6 to finish his freshman year last April.

Before Kyle returned to class, Wells spoke with Mike Ludie, Kyle’s special education teacher and case manager at the school. She asked that he and other school officials pay special attention to Kyle.

Kyle’s grades were better than ever before after returning from Cottonwood. He was excelling in history and math. But the harassment continued, Sharon said. He finished his freshman year and returned in the fall.

“He was in the prime of his life,” Sharon said.

On the day he took his life, Kyle's friends claim he was bullied. He came home from school. Sharon left to buy some Halloween candy. He went into his room and didn't come out alive.

The school district won't comment on the details of Kyle's last day.

"There are privileged pieces of information that I can't talk about," Monteith said.

Sharon kept her handgun locked in a safe. She hid the key in her purse. Kyle had stolen the key.

Rochelle Wood, Kyle's neighbor and friend, heard the gunshot and saw the body bag.

"He did what he did to make a point," she said. "The bullying has to stop."

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(11) Comments

  1. Goodsource
    Report Abuse
    Goodsource - January 23, 2013 7:28 pm
    Wander why the paper refused to put my initial comments into the comment section? Hmmm, liberal media!!! Not unbiased!!!!
  2. AL KIPF
    Report Abuse
    AL KIPF - January 23, 2013 3:25 pm
    The biological mother sounds like a real winner. Too bad this kid didn't have older brothers to beat the crap out of the ones harassing him, it would have made them stop. I know from experience.

    Until morality is restored in the US there will be more Kyle's spawned from unfit biological birth mothers and fathers.

    What a tragically sad story.
  3. Jacknjill
    Report Abuse
    Jacknjill - January 23, 2013 12:18 pm
    I was bullied something awful in the early 90's at Will James jr. high and West high school, so much so that I dropped out when I was 15 pretty much destroying my life without ending it. At the time one of the schools counselors who had also been at Will James (where the abuse first started which he chose to ignore) got a new job at West just as I became a freshmen (never had any good luck only bad) told me something to the effect of if I was going to be that way I should expect to be treated that way. I spent years blaming myself and being ashamed. I still remember all their names including the adults who condoned this behavior, I still have nightmares about all of them. I was thrown into the dumpster behind west on a weekly basis, they ruined my cloths, broke my things, broke me down, made my mom cry. I tried to fight back but there were too many of them. I tried to get help from the schools staff but was told I was wrong and to change. Im so sorry this happened to your boy.
  4. Hairy Stickman
    Report Abuse
    Hairy Stickman - January 23, 2013 12:05 pm
    @just - Not only is your comment nonsensical and off topic, it is insensitive and offensive. A child is dead and all you can do is make stupid jokes? I agree with Mtnana523 - please keep your comments to yourself.
  5. HUUH
    Report Abuse
    HUUH - January 23, 2013 12:01 pm
    unbelievably ignorant and insensitive....just 4 justice huh?
  6. CarsonCityKid
    Report Abuse
    CarsonCityKid - January 23, 2013 10:57 am
    So what else in new in this backward thinking state?
  7. rainbowed
    Report Abuse
    rainbowed - January 23, 2013 10:45 am
    I've known way too many Kyles in my lifetime. My thoughts are with you Sharon. It is getting better, but we are far from where we need to be. With things like the hate speech out of the Pope's mouth in his christmas message, and the majority who go silently along with it, it will be an uphill battle.
  8. Salty Dawg
    Report Abuse
    Salty Dawg - January 23, 2013 10:31 am
    I wouldn't throw stones when you live in a glass house. One has to only go West on I-90 to find plenty of what you speak of in Western Montana.
  9. Mtnana523
    Report Abuse
    Mtnana523 - January 23, 2013 10:17 am
    This is a serious issue and that is what you have to say....... you were better off saying nothing
  10. just 4 justice
    Report Abuse
    just 4 justice - January 23, 2013 9:40 am
    After Broke Back Mountain I thought Wyoming condoned Gay relationships, they allowed the movie to be filmed there instead of Frisco!
  11. alaskagirl54
    Report Abuse
    alaskagirl54 - January 23, 2013 6:43 am
    “Our kids are old enough and sophisticated enough to know what bullying is and what it’s not and what’s tolerated and what’s not,” district Superintendent Bryan Monteith said.

    I would love to hear Mr. Monteith's further explanation on what is tolerated and what is not because I have always heard of a no tolerance policy when it comes to bullying but I guess for some of the more sophisticated students in his district there is an important "but in cases of..." clause to that policy? This is so sad, Sharon I hope you find peace.

Comment policy

We provide this forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the day's news. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and abuse are not. You must be logged into a personal account on Facebook to comment (FAQ). Readers are responsible for their comments and abuse of this privilege will not be tolerated. We reserve the right, without warning or notification, to remove comments and block users we determine violate our Terms of Service. Comments reflect the opinions of the author - not those of The Billings Gazette or its parent company.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

More from the Gazette

Outgoing workforce services director reflects on her tenure

Outgoing workforce services director reflects on her tenure

5 hours ago(0)

Wyoming police increase DUI enforcement for July 4th holiday

6 hours ago(0)

Service officer to assist veterans

July 02, 2015 7:00 pm(0)

Wyoming man who threatened Obama ruled insane

July 02, 2015 6:55 pm(1)

Residents of Wyoming town left without water

July 02, 2015 6:45 pm(0)

June hottest month for car burglaries in Wyoming city

July 02, 2015 6:34 pm(0)
Police: Woman claimed shape shifters forced her to ingest meth

Police: Woman claimed shape shifters forced her to ingest meth

July 02, 2015 6:20 pm(2)
Riding groups booted from Frontier Days pre-rodeo show

Riding groups booted from Frontier Days pre-rodeo show

July 02, 2015 1:45 pm(0)

Follow The Billings Gazette

Popular Stories

Get weekly ads via e-mail

Deals & Offers

Featured Businesses