April 8, 2013

What Kitty McGuire left behind: happy memories, many questions

The 13-year-old's family points to reports of bullying and her grief over a beloved uncle's suicide, but struggle to understand why she took her life.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 3)

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Aunts and uncles of Kitty McGuire talk about their 13-year-old niece, who took her life last month in Troy. From left, Bobbi Pelletier and Michael McGuire join Hannah and Timothy McGuire at the couple's home in Bangor. They hope that when police obtain access to Kitty's messages on her iPod, it may yield some answer to the mystery of what triggered her suicide.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Kitty McGuire

Photo McGuire family

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Carrie Horne, assistant director of the Maine division of National Alliance on Mental Illness, a nonprofit agency, said suicide very rarely comes without some sort of warning.

"Most of the time, 90 percent of the time, people show signs of suicide before they are going to kill themselves," Horne said.

Horne said there are imminent signs to watch for:

Making threats, even vague threats, such as "I wish I was dead" or "What's the point of living?"

Looking for ways to carry out a suicide plan, such as looking for a firearm or rope.

Writing about death, texting about death or suicide or drawing pictures of suicide.

Other signs include moodiness, sadness, irritability, anger, withdrawing from friends and family, changes in sleep patterns such as insomnia or sleeping too much, feeling hopeless or feeling trapped.

Horne said people who feel suicidal or are worried about a loved one should call the state mental health crisis number, 1-888-568-1112.

-- From staff reports

Kaitlyn said that she knew Kitty was having a hard time dealing with Edward's death.

"I'm sure it wasn't strictly bullying," Kaitlyn said. "I know bullying played a huge part."

Kitty's uncle Timothy also attended the rally, protesting what he called inaction by school officials. He also said he thinks too little was done to watch for other signs that Kitty may have been depressed.

"They knew that Edward had passed. Everyone at that school knew about it, and they should have kept an eye on her. My father told them to keep a better eye on her," Timothy said.

Heather Perry, the superintendent of Regional School Unit 3, which includes Mount View Middle School, said the school system is investigating Kitty's death and what role bullying might have played, separate from the investigation by the Waldo County Sheriff's Office.

"We had not had any reports of bullying in this case," Perry said. "We are currently conducting an investigation looking at the allegations."

Perry said that whether Kitty was bullied, teased or harassed, "none of those are acceptable behaviors at our schools."

"I've been a superintendent for seven years, this is my 17th year as an educator and I've never experienced anything like this. It really did have a tremendous impact on students and the community as a whole," she said.

Perry said school officials allowed the rally because officials agreed with the message that bullying should not be tolerated. She said she also felt it was good that Kitty's family members held it.

"The whole community was impacted by this tragedy -- students, staff, parents," Perry said. "I think everybody is going through some sort of grieving process of a variety, and when we go through the process individually, whether it be adults or kids, it's going to be there's some emotional roller-coaster ride. You are going to have feelings that range from fear, being scared, not knowing what to do, to being angry -- all those things.

"We're really trying as a school to respond to this and support the community as we work through the process. So we're paying close attention on how to continue supporting students, but we're also going to be offering public forums starting as early as (this) week and hopefully have the series go into this spring, summer and fall next (school) year," Perry said.

Perry said school officials did step in when groups of students wanted to wear T-shirts and buttons with Kitty's name on them, worried that it might encourage other students to harm themselves as she had.

"We had gotten some pretty strong advice from (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) and the school to discourage this kind of behavior. We didn't want any response, or what people call copycat behavior. When a student had a button, we would ask them to put it under their shirt or under their jacket," Perry said.

Following Kitty's death, Perry said, the school district coordinated with outside counselors and bereavement experts to work with students and staff members at not only the middle school but also the adjoining high school in Thorndike, and at Troy Elementary School, which Kitty attended.

Perry said the school system has a documented plan to deal with bullying allegations. Every full-time employee in RSU 3 has been trained in what to do when someone raises a bullying allegation.

The school district covers 440 square miles and includes 1,450 students from pre-kindergarten to the 12th grade from 11 towns. Kitty's grade has about 100 students.

(Continued on page 5)

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Additional Photos

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Michael McGuire, one of Kitty’s uncles, remembers the messages she would write to him on his bathroom mirror to cheer him up. She also delighted in playing pranks on him.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Bobbi Pelletier, an aunt of Kitty McGuire, says, “She was so sweet, she’d curl up on the couch with us.” She says Kitty, having just turned 13, was trying to find herself.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Kitty McGuire holds the bouquet she caught at the wedding of Timothy and Hannah McGuire three years ago. She was always the one who caught wedding bouquets, the couple said.

Family photo

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Heather Perry


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