MIAMI (CBS4) – Two years after a seven year-old boy hanged himself in a Margate foster home, CBS4 News has learned that the Department of Children and Families has reversed its earlier finding that the hanging was an “accident” at the boy’s own hand.
DCF, after reopening its investigation into the death of Gabriel Myers, has concluded his death was in fact the fault of foster parents who failed to provide adequate supervision for the boy, leaving him in the care of a “mentally deficient” 19 year-old caregiver.
Gabriel, who had been taken from his drug -abusing mother, and who had been sexually abused in a previous foster home, killed himself on April 14th, 2009, hanging himself with a shower hose in the bathroom of the foster home where he was staying on Northwest 9th street in Margate.
The youth babysitting Gabriel told police – and CBS4 News in an exclusive interview days after the incident – that he watched Gabriel hang himself through the window of a bathroom door. Gabriel had locked himself in the bathroom after throwing a tantrum.
Miguel Gould, the son of the foster parents, said he fumbled through the house for a screwdriver, and finally jimmied the bathroom door open to get to Gabriel, but it was too late.
Gould said he did not break the window to open the door, or kick the door down, because he didn’t want to cause damage to his father’s home.
Margate police didn’t know what to make of the case. They pondered bringing criminal charges against the 19 year-old, but first obtained a “behavioral profile” from the FBI.
FBI behavioral experts concluded that Miguel Gould had a diminished mental capacity. Their report, obtained by CBS4 News, found that the youth had “limited intellectual…abilities…consistent with that of a young child.”
The FBI based its findings, in part, on an interview Gould gave to CBS4’s Gary Nelson, 10 days after Gabriel’s death.
“When asked by…the news reporter why he didn’t kick in the door…Miguel was incredulous at the thought of damaging his father’s house,” the FBI report said.
The behavioral experts found that Gould had no criminal culpability in Gabriel’s death, but simply lacked the competence to respond properly to the emergency.
Based on the FBI’s findings, DCF re-opened its case.
“It was really closed prematurely,” DCF spokesman Mark Riordan told CBS4’s Nelson Monday. “We decided the case had to be verified based on the FBI’s analysis, and it was originally closed prior to (the FBI) report coming in.”
In a renewed finding, signed off on early this year, DCF concluded that “Miguel was not prepared to provide the needed level of care. He became overwhelmed by events and was unable to intervene…to prevent Gabriel’s death.”
DCF now faults the foster parents, Michael Gould and Daver Williams, for leaving Gabriel in Miguel Gould’s care.
“They did not follow the rules,” the DCF report said, by allowing “Miguel to care for Gabriel.”
The report concludes with a “verified finding of inadequate supervision and…death due to neglect.”
Margate police brought no charges in Gabriel’s death and have closed the case.
Detective Efrain Suarez, the lead investigator in the case, wrote in a report that Gabriel, in “an attempt to get attention from others…caused his own accidental death.”
Suarez told CBS4’s Nelson Monday that he did not “believe Gabriel had the capacity to understand what committing suicide really meant.”
Police concluded that a variety of psychotropic drugs Gabriel was receiving at the time of his death may have contributed to his hanging himself. Some of the drugs had not been approved for use in children. The boy’s death prompted DCF to maintain a weekly monitoring of foster children being given psychotropic drugs, and a constant accounting of the drugs being prescribed.
CBS4 News was unsuccessful in reaching Gabriel’s former foster parents Michael Gould and Williams, for comment on Monday. Messages left on their cell phone, at Gould’s place of work, and at the home of Williams’ parents were not returned.