Investigators are searching for answers in the death of an 8-year-old New Jersey girl who they believe may have been influenced by the suicide of a girl in Colorado just weeks ago.
A source familiar with the matter confirmed to NJ Advanced Media that investigators were looking into the possibility that Newark girl Imani McCray saw news reports of the suicide of Ashwanty Davis, 10, before taking her own life on Dec. 10. An adult discovered McCray unconscious in her room that afternoon not long after her parents reportedly placed her in timeout. She was pronounced dead 40 minutes after arriving to the University Hospital, police said.
Essex County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Fennelly has declined to comment on if the girl committed suicide or if her death was accidental. However, the prosecutor’s office announced last week that a preliminary autopsy indicated no visible injuries to McCray.
“It’s tragic … it’s just a horrible, horrible thing, no matter what the circumstances were around it,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka told a reporter. “Anytime an 8-year-old child is dead is just horrible.
“My heart goes out to [her family],” Baraka added. “I hope it’s not bullying, I hope it isn’t a copycat, I hope it’s not none of those things … We just have to do better, you know all of us, as a community, as a society, we just have to do better.”
Local authorities said there’s no evidence McCray was bullied at school. However, her death came nearly a week after Davis’ suicide was reported. The Colorado girl hanged herself in a closet late last month after video of a fight between her and another student was shared on social media, resulting in constant bullying.
“I saw my daughter was scared,” Davis’ mother, Latoshia Harris, told local station KDVR. “She was devastated when she found out [the video] had made it to the Musical.ly [app]. My daughter came home two weeks later and hanged herself in a closet.
Now, McCray’s family is facing similar grief as they work to learn what possibly drove the young girl to suicide. A family friend told NBC New York that the family is currently making funeral arrangements.
McCray would have celebrated her 9th birthday this week.