Josh Pacheco was a junior at Linden High School in Fenton, Mich., where he loved theater, his Advanced Placement history class, and his friends and family, his mother Lynette Capehart told Michigan Live. But the "sensitive" teen was also the target of relentless antigay bullying, which his parents believe led the 17-year-old to commit suicide on November 27.
Pacheco came out as gay to his mother just two months before he died, Capehart told MLive. Capehart and her husband, Pacheco's stepfather, didn't know the extent to which their son was bullied, being shoved into lockers and harassed both in and outside of school. Their first indication was when Pacheco returned from a homecoming dance on October 6 in tears, but wouldn't elaborate on why he was upset.
"He was having problems with bullying," Capehart said. "He didn't really want to tell us very much. It was very disheartening to me."
MLive reports that Pacheco questioned his life and his future in conversations to his siblings, which prompted his mother to make him an appointment with a counselor. But Pacheco never made it to the counseling appointment, posting on Facebook near lunchtime on November 26, a quote from J.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins: "I regret to announce that this is the end. I'm going now, I bid you all a very fond farewell. Goodbye."
When a neighbor checked in on Pacheco at his stepfather's urging, the neighbor found the teenager unresponsive in his truck, which had been running inside a closed garage. Pacheco left a note in the truck which said, "I'm sorry I wasn't able to be strong enough."
Capehart says that since her son's death, students and teachers have approached her, telling her they knew that Pacheco was being bullied. She told MLive she was upset that school officials never notified the family about the problems.
"We weren't aware of any specifics," Superintendent Ed Koledo told MLive. "There's been a lot of stories that have turned up over the weekend that we are looking into. We are trying to put new programs into place, so [students] feel more comfortable [talking to administrators.]"
In response to Pacheco's death, school officials accelerated plans for an antibullying hotline called the Eagle Hotline, available at 810-373-2131.
Young LGBT people struggling with depression, isolation, or suicidal thoughts can call the Trevor Lifeline and speak confidentially with a trained counselor 24 hours a day at 866-488-7386.