Culture & the Family

Ray Carter | March 22, 2024

Despite lack of evidence, 2STGNC+ activists call for prosecutions

Ray Carter

The Feb. 8 death of Dagny Benedict, a 16-year-old Owasso girl who recently identified as “nonbinary” and went by the name Nex Benedict, has been ruled a suicide and found to be unrelated to a school fight the preceding day.

But transgender activists insist that other students involved in the Feb. 7 fight, which was instigated by Benedict, should be prosecuted anyway.

In a March 21 press release, Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen Kunzweiler announced that he would not pursue charges against the students involved in the brief school-bathroom fight with Benedict.

Kunzweiler noted Benedict and the other students were attending an “In School Suspension” class at Owasso. He noted the two groups were not familiar with each other prior to the class.

While it appears the students involved in the fight had been “antagonizing” each other in the days immediately prior to the fight, Kunzweiler noted the youths did not report anything to school administrators or teachers.

He said the fight “was less than one minute in duration” and began when Benedict assaulted two other students by throwing water on them.

Benedict committed suicide the following day by taking a mixture of Benadryl and Prozac. While Benedict had “superficial injuries” from the fight, the autopsy did not find “any evidence of internal injury” from the fight, Kunzweiler noted.

Benedict left notes related to her suicide. Kunzweiler said those notes “do not make any reference to the earlier fight or difficulties at school.”

Kunzweiler therefore agreed with Owasso police officers who concluded that no charges were justified against the other students since the school fight involved “mutual combat” in which both parties attacked the other.

For weeks, activist groups have portrayed Benedict as a victim of brutal bullying whose death was the result of the fight and “anti-LGBT” policies, politicians and general attitudes in Oklahoma.

But that story quickly fell apart.

The Owasso Police Department issued a statement on Feb. 21 noting that the Feb. 7 school fight was broken up by other students and a school employee, that all students involved in the fight “walked under their own power to the assistant principal’s office and nurse’s office,” that each student was “given a health assessment by a registered nurse at the school and it was determined that ambulance service was not required,” and that the investigation showed that Benedict “did not die as a result of trauma” the following day.

The police interview recorded the day of the fight showed that Benedict admitted to instigating the fight because she believed three girls were mocking the way Benedict laughed and dressed. Benedict also confessed to throwing one girl into a paper-towel dispenser.

Information that has become public since Benedict’s death indicates the youth suffered from mental-health problems. She legally obtained Prozac, which is used to treat depression and was one of the drugs she used to commit suicide, and had also been prescribed Seroquel, which is used to treat schizophrenia and episodes of mania or depression in patients with bipolar disorder.

Two Spirit, Transgender, Gender-nonconforming+ Activists Persist

Activist organizations responded to Kunzweiler’s announcement as they had to the release of prior information that undermined their narrative: By portraying the situation as a massive coverup across multiple government entities in Oklahoma, ranging from school officials to police to the district attorney’s office.

Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD (originally founded as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), issued a statement filled with conspiratorial overtones.

“Time and time again, leaders in Oklahoma have showed that they don’t value Nex’s life, or the lives of other Indigenous and 2STGNC+ (Two Spirit, transgender, gender-nonconforming+) students,” Ellis said. “Everyone from Superintendent (Ryan) Walters and Owasso High School to the unaccredited-since-2009 state Medical Examiner’s Office, the District Attorney, and Owasso Police Department have failed Nex Benedict and failed us all.”

Ellis argued the students involved in the bathroom fight with Benedict should be prosecuted even though they did not kill Benedict, and did so based on a description of the fight that is at stark odds with the facts as determined by police.

“The cause of death is also not a reason to not hold perpetrators accountable for violent behavior,” Ellis said, “including beating Nex unconscious in a public school bathroom and causing Nex to be sent to the hospital.”

Nicole McAfee, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, issued a statement dismissing Kunzweiler’s conclusion by saying the district attorney “has issued a decision in this case as if he gets a say in what justice is for Nex Benedict.”

McAfee said Kunzweiler’s statement “asks us to trust the status quo in believing a set of facts that are so violently in opposition to the lived experiences of 2STGNC+ Oklahomans,” and said that “true justice does not come from a cop with a law degree.”

In his statement, Kunzweiler noted the facts of Benedict’s death will leave many struggling for answers—and that outcome is common in cases of suicide.

“The death of Dagney Benedict, also known as Nex Benedict, is a tragedy,” Kunzweiler said. “It is a tragedy for the family who is grieving over the loss of a life they loved. The reasons why any person commits suicide do not provide answers to those who are left behind. Mostly, we are left with questions about what any one of us could have done to prevent the tragedy from happening in the first place. Many of those questions may never be answered to the satisfaction of the people affected by suicide.”

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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