Friends mourn student's suicide

2012-03-02T22:00:00Z 2012-03-03T15:30:38Z Friends mourn student's suicideBy the Lincoln Journal Star
March 02, 2012 10:00 pm  • 

Friends and classmates of a 16-year-old who hanged himself at a Lincoln detention center plan to gather Saturday evening for a candlelight vigil.

"We're going to talk about the good old times and pray for him," said Austin Castillo, a 16-year-old Northeast High School student.

Authorities found Jonathan L. Kennedy hanging at 10:45 p.m. Sunday at the Lancaster County Youth Assessment Center, according to a Lincoln Police Department incident report.

He was taken to a local hospital and has since died.

East High School, where Kennedy was a student, has made crisis counseling available to students and in a recent letter urged parents to be aware of their children's mental state.

"We thought it important to remind parents that suicide is one of the leading causes of death among young people. Please pay close attention to your teenager at this particular time," Principal Sue Cassata said in the letter.

During an interview Friday, Castillo reminisced about the time he spent with Kennedy and skateboarding with him.

"He had a big heart. He cared for everyone. ... He was a real people person, an extrovert," Castillo said. "We all love him. There isn't a person who doesn't."

The candlelight vigil will be from 7 to 10 p.m. at Herbert Park, North 81st Street and Trailridge Road.

Court records show Kennedy spent the past couple of years in and out of juvenile detention and treatment centers for charges including criminal mischief, drug possession and theft.

He had been a ward of the state since April 7, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

During a Feb. 17 review hearing, Juvenile Court Judge Linda Porter ordered Kennedy be detained at the detention center due to continued drug usage and self-harming behavior.

Castillo criticized detention center staff for not keeping a closer watch on Kennedy.

"It really doesn't make any sense to me," he said.

Because Kennedy died in custody, Nebraska law requires a grand jury investigation.

Officials with the youth detention center and HHS are not commenting on the death.

Kennedy's father did not return phone messages left Friday.

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