No answers yet in daughter-father suicide in Kansas City

March 25, 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Why a father and daughter jumped to their deaths off a bridge Thursday morning is still a mystery — and probably will remain one.

Witnesses reported seeing the two climb over the railing on the Christopher S. Bond Bridge and then hug before holding hands as they jumped 120 feet into the icy cold water of the Missouri River below. Adding to the drama: Some thought the woman was holding a baby, wrapped in a blanket.

Rescue workers searched the muddy water of the Missouri with no luck. But the pickup truck left at the scene was registered to a 29-year-old woman from the small town of Peculiar, Mo. (population under 5,000) 30 miles south of Kansas City. Her father’s cell phone was in the truck. There was no suicide note. Not in the truck. Nor in the single-wide mobile home they shared in Peculiar.

Authorities believe the blanket was wrapped around the young woman’s pet dog, named Skeeter, and not an infant.

Why would the pair choose suicide? That question haunts those left behind. The woman’s mother, who lives a couple of hours away and has been divorced from the father since the daughter was a child, spoke to a reporter at The Kansas City Star, asking for anonymity until the bodies are found and their deaths confirmed.

She said her daughter had been active in Girl Scouts while growing up, and kept the troop leader entertained. The leader told the mom, “Field trips weren’t the same without her.”

But the young woman struggled in school and took special-education classes. A friend said other students made fun of her. Even after high-school graduation, when she worked different jobs, she quit after co-workers were unkind, the friend said.

Instead, she babysat for friends, her mother said, and she appeared to love taking care of children.

But she struggled with depression a few years ago, and because the medications made her feel like a zombie, she quit taking them, the mom reported. She told a friend she wanted to commit suicide; he tried to talk her out of it, and she quit speaking to him.

The daughter seemed to have recovered in the last year, the mother thought. She was excited about her mom getting Skype so the two of them could stay in touch. She made plans for a trail ride with her mother this summer. She even posted a photo of morel mushrooms — a delicacy in the Midwest if you can find them in the spring — asking, “Who’s looking forward to picking these?”

And yet, for whatever reason, the young woman and her father made a very different decision last week. That perplexes the mother, who said her ex-husband and she would work together in the past to help their daughter when depression struck.

The dad, though, also had his own issues with depression, according to the mother.

Suicides are rarely publicized, and yet they’re much more common than one would guess. Last year, after the suicide of popular Kansas City weatherman Don Harman, who had struggled with depression for years, the Kansas City Star reported that twice as many suicides as homicides occur each year in the state of Missouri. In Kansas, there were more than three times as many suicides as homicides in 2011, according to the state’s Department of Health and Environment.

But who would know it from reading the headlines? Few suicides make the news. Harman’s family wanted the public to know the truth about his death, hoping that the information might save the lives of others who suffered from depression and might be considering suicide.

But for now, a mother waits. Waits for the body of her daughter to surface in the Missouri River. And waits for answers that may never be found.

 

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.
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