Hailey Petee: Police report sheds light on suicide
By Jane Beathard
The noose around 11-year-old Hailey Petee’s neck was not the only one in her basement bedroom, based on observation by the first London police officer to arrive at 44 N. Walnut St. early Sunday.
Three other hanging devices dangled from the ceiling, including a pulled-down cable.
“There is evidence in Hailey’s room that she was experimenting with hanging herself,” Officer John Goubeaux reported.
Petee’s mother, Melinda Groce, found the 11-year-old’s lifeless body about 12:15 a.m., after returning from dinner at Dave & Buster’s restaurant in Hilliard, an incident report said.
Just hours earlier, Petee shared a pizza with her 15-year-old sister and grandfather. Groce and David Petee, Jr., left their youngest child at home for disciplinary reasons, the report said.
“She was perfectly fine about 9:45 or so,” the sister told officers.
Officers collected a notebook and pictures from the bedroom. None indicated the pre-teen was pondering suicide, chief Dave Wiseman said.
Groce told investigators her daughter was the target of bullying last fall that forced a change in school bus routes. Otherwise, Groce could not provide specific bullying incidents related to London schools. Groce told police that her daughter was not currently having problems at school.
London Elementary School Principal Carol Daniels backed up Groce’s statement during a search of Petee’s desk on Sunday afternoon. Daniels said Petee was “good at school.” The principal noted Petee’s bullying problems appeared to cease with the change in school bus routes.
What emotions prompted the child to kill herself may always remain a matter of speculation.
However, Groce told investigators a made-for-TV movie recently broadcast on the Lifetime Channel likely planted the idea in her daughter’s head. The movie is based on the true life story of a high school girl who hangs herself after repeated incidents of bullying. Petee watched the movie in mid-January.
On Monday, Officer Joe Cox returned to the North Walnut Street home and encountered a belligerent and uncooperative David Petee, Jr.
Petee said police did nothing about an alleged assault on his daughter last summer. In a profanity-laced rampage, Petee told Cox he had no respect for law enforcement and that “London cops are no [expletive] good.”
Cox left after telling Groce to call if she needed assistance.
In the end, officers were unable to substantiate any recent criminal acts — including school bullying incidents — that pushed Petee to suicide.
Their investigation is now closed, pending additional information.
Madison County Coroner James Kaehr, M.D., is expected to release his report of Petee’s death within days.