Police have closed the investigation into the hanging death of a 6-year-old Minnesota girl who was found in the bedroom of her foster home with a jump rope tied around her neck, but they still don’t know how she died.
The Associated Press reports Deputy Chief Mark Bruley of the Brooklyn Park Police Department said foul play is not suspected in the Dec. 27 death of Kendrea Johnson. All evidence in the case points to the death being either a suicide of an accident, he said.
A recent story from The Star Tribune of Minnesota reports investigators have taken a serious look at the possibility that the girl killed herself.
Although police documents, obtained by the paper, indicate that authorities initially believed the knots used in noose were too sophisticated for a child, they eventually came to believe suicide was a possibility.
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“We just did our due diligence to tear this case apart and look at every angle,” Bruley said. “It’s hard to believe that it was even possible. We may never know if it was suicide or an accident.”
He said evidence kept leading investigators back to suicide as a likely explanation but he understood the Hennepin County medical examiner’s determination that suicide was “outside what a normal 6-year-old could think about.”
The Star Tribune reports a three-gallon bucket was found near the girl’s body as well as two notes that appear to have been written by a child in purple marker. “I’m sorry,” read one note, while the other said, “I’m sad for what I do.”
That a 6-year-old would resort to suicide is plausible, said University of Minnesota psychiatry professor, George Realmuto.
Kendrea Johnson had reportedly undergone a psychiatric evaluation in June and was assessed as having homicidal and suicidal thoughts. The examine noted she “showed severe guilt, as she does not feel lovable or acceptable and reports feeling guilty and responsible for out-of-home placement.”
Records indicate the young girl was placed in foster care in December 2013 after county child protection officials accused her mother of abusing drugs. Her behavior changed dramatically after that, the records show. She reportedly told one foster mother that she was going to kill her with a screwdriver and told another that she wanted to jump out a window and kill herself because “nobody likes me.”
“I think all of those factors were in place here,” Realmuto said of the possibility of suicide.
He said that it is likely a 6-year-old wouldn’t understand the permanency of death but that she might have perceived tying a noose around her neck and hanging herself as a form of self-punishment.
She might have said to herself, “‘My life is awful, I’ve been a bad girl, nobody cares about me. I will punish myself by hanging myself,’” Realmuto stated.