Nex Benedict cause of death revealed by Oklahoma medical examiner

Nex Benedict Owasso Public Schools District Investigation Department of Education Cause of death

The Oklahoma Medical Examiner has listed the cause of death for Nex Benedict, the 16-year-old non-binary student whose death has sparked widespread concern and debate regarding safety for gender non-conforming and LGBTQ+ youth, as suicide. Photo: Kasandra Phelps via GoFundMe

Nex Benedict, the 16-year-old non-binary student whose death has sparked widespread concern and debate regarding safety for gender non-conforming and LGBTQ+ youth, committed suicide, according to the Oklahoma Medical Examiner.

The medical examiner’s one-page summary report says the cause of death was a “combined toxicity from diphenhydramine and fluoxetine.”

Diphenhydramine, commonly known by its brand name Benadryl, is an antihistamine used to treat allergy symptoms.

Fluoxetine, widely recognized as Prozac, is prescribed for anxiety disorders and depression.

Owasso Public Schools under investigation by Education Department

The medical examiner’s office acknowledged Benedict’s preferred name was Nex, but said that the report uses the legal first name of Dagney.

The report doesn’t provide any narrative of events leading up to the suicide or possible explanation of what might have caused it.

The full medical examiner’s report is scheduled to be released on March 27.

Federal officials last month opened an investigation into Owasso Public Schools district outside of Tulsa, where Benedict, a member of the Choctaw Nation, was a student, after the Department of Education received a formal complaint from the Human Rights Campaign regarding the handling of sex-based harassment incidents.

Benedict’s death has shined a spotlight on the ongoing problem of LGBTQ+ students being targeted for harassment, bullying, and abuse in school districts across the nation.

The Owasso Police Department released a statement about the medical examiner’s report on its Facebook page Wednesday.

“From the beginning of this investigation, Owasso Police observed many indications that this death was the result of suicide. However, investigators did not wish to confirm that information without the final results being presented by the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office.”

A police spokesperson told News on 6 in Oklahoma that the investigation is not finished and “all findings will be sent to the DA’s office.”

On Feb. 7, Benedict, a student at Owasso High School, said he was assaulted in a school bathroom. Later that day, Benedict’s grandmother took him to the hospital, where an Owasso police officer interviewed him.

In footage from a body-worn camera, Benedict told the officer that he had been attacked by students in the school bathroom, and previous to that assault, he had been bullied relentlessly at the school for their gender expression.

The following day, Benedict was in distress at home and taken to the hospital, where he later died.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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