(MCT) — JERSEYVILLE — Police are investigating the apparent suicide of a 15-year-old boy who became distraught, his father said, after a woman revealed that he had been accused of sexual abuse when he was 10 years old.
"As far as I'm concerned, she killed him," said Ollie "Junior" Price, 62, of Jerseyville, the father of Daniel C. Price, 15.
"We are looking into it and checking any comments that might have been made," Jerseyville Police Chief Brad Blackorby said.
The father said the boy was processed through the juvenile court system at age 10 and had received two years of counseling. Lately, he had no troubles with other people and got along well with fellow students.
Price said he was a single parent and raised the boy from birth. The boy's mother was absent because of personal problems, he said.
Price said the record of his son's past was supposed to be sealed, because he was a juvenile at the time of the offense. The offense involved a minor act, the father said.
However, during a recent martial arts class that the teen was attending, a woman - a parent - came in and blurted out something about the incident five years before, Price said. He said the woman apparently showed a newspaper article and a photo, although he did not know more.
"When he came out of there, he was shaking like a leaf. He told me, 'Dad, I can't go back there; I can't go to school,'" Price said.
The class was at the city's Susnig Recreation Center, but its director, Angie Sullivan, said the instructor was renting the space from the city. The center personnel had no involvement in the class, and it was entirely under the control of the instructor. He had been renting the space for about 15 months, she said.
The instructor, Dave Beiermann, said he didn't witness any such incident. He said he has not been able to track down any information about who might have said something about the boy's past. He said he has talked to the police about the matter and has done some checking on his own as to who might have made a comment.
He said he was distraught that rumors are circulating to the effect that an instructor had revealed something, but he is the instructor, and he insists that simply is not true.
"This absolutely bothers me," Beiermann said.
He noted that the boy seemed listless and tired during Thursday night's class. Daniel Price did not act like himself, and he told others that he had not slept for two nights, the instructor said.
Beiermann said he has been told a lot of conflicting stories about what happened, including the contention that the information was exchanged at school.
Jersey School District Superintendent Ed Settles said the rumors that bullying occurred at school are untrue, as far as he and his staff have been able to determine.
He said officials are distraught over the loss of a student, and they have had meetings on the subject and are making counseling available to students and staff.
"It is with great sadness that one of our students is no longer with us," Settles said. "There has been much speculation and numerous rumors regarding our loss.
"Upon an internal and external investigation, there is no evidence that this tragic event was caused by bullying.
"We have a student that was loved by all around him and will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends," Settles said in a prepared statement.
Price said he urged his child to keep going to school, but the boy insisted he would not. He said he didn't care what happened, he was not going back to school, Price said in an interview Monday. He said his son made good grades, but his grades fell because he was having trouble adjusting to high school.
Price said his son used an old "goose gun," a shotgun, to take his life. It had been around the house for some time, "gathering dust," he said. The boy knew about guns because they often would go hunting together.
"I was just sorry I had to walk in and find him," the father said.
Daniel Price was a freshman at Jersey Community High School. He was a member of the football and track teams.
A woman whose family was close to the teenager, and who asked not to be named, said "Danny" was like a member of her family, because he was close friends with the children.
"He was with us a lot. We even hung a stocking for him at Christmas," the woman said.
"He was one of us. You couldn't ask for a nicer kid," she said, although she acknowledged he had a "troubled childhood."
Price liked lifting weights and karate.
"He was particularly excited about beginning his driver's education courses at the school," his obituary read.
"He was a beautiful kid," the father said in the interview.