No Charges Will Be Filed In The Death Of Owasso Teen Nex Benedict, Says Tulsa County District Attorney

The Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler confirmed that charges will not be filed in the death of Owasso student Nex Benedict.

Thursday, March 21st 2024, 5:02 pm

By: News On 6, Chloe Abbott


Charges will not be filed in the death of Owasso student Nex Benedict.

The Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler confirmed the decision on Thursday in a statement to the public. The DA said while the death of any child is a tragedy and that any suicide leaves behind many questions, based on all the evidence presented, he says this fight was an instance of "mutual combat."

"Regarding the fight which took place at the Owasso High School, the combatants were all under 18 years of age. Consequently, if charges were justified, those charges would be handled as a delinquent child cause of action in a juvenile court of law. Based upon the investigation of the Owasso Police Department, I am in agreement with their assessment that the filing of juvenile charges is not warranted. From all of the evidence gathered, this fight was an instance of mutual combat. I do not have a reasonable belief that the State of Oklahoma could sustain its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt if charges were presented for prosecution."

Nex Benedict, a non-binary student, who attended Owasso High School died on February 8, the day after they were involved in a physical fight in a campus bathroom with a group of other students.

In his statement, Kunzweiler said that the investigation stated that the incident was less than 60 seconds long and started after some girls made comments about how Benedict laughed and Benedict poured water on the girls. Kunzweiler's letter said all the students were serving in-house suspension and didn't know each other before that week, but, had been antagonizing each other, although no student reported it to teachers or staff.

The medical examiner's report stated that Benedict died from an overdose of Benadryl and Prozac and the cause was suicide. The DA's letter says Benedict had written notes talking about suicide but did not reference the fight or incidents at school.

He says the notes are personal to the family and will not be released.

News On 6 reached out to Nex Benedict's family attorney regarding the DA's decision, who said they would release a statement when they are ready.

Related Story: Owasso Teen Nex Benedict Died By Suicide, Says Medical Examiner Report

Benedict's death has drawn international attention with many demanding answers and accountability after it was reported that they had been a target of bullying and assaulted in a high school bathroom. Kunzweiler stated that while criminal charges do not appear to be warranted, civil suits are an option for the family.

"Finally, whether or not individuals may choose to seek legal counsel for remedies in the civil realm of the court system is a decision best left to them. The scope of those inquiries are not as limited as the question of criminal/ delinquent conduct which I was asked to address in this case."

Related Story: Nex Benedict's Family Calls For Prevention Efforts Following Medical Examiner's Findings

Full Nex Benedict Coverage

The District's Attorney's full statement can be read below:

Previous Coverage: Medical Examiner's Report

On March 13th the Medical Examiner released their summary report of Benedict's death. Page 1 of the report states that a combined overdose of Diphenhydramine and Fluoxetine caused Benedict's death. The full medical examiner's report will be released on 03/27/2024.

Below is the Summary Report; It should be noted that the medical examiner's office acknowledged Benedict's preferred name was Nex but stated that the report uses the legal first name of Dagney.

Nex Benedict - Medical Examiner's Report 3-13-2024

The Owasso Police Department released a statement about the results on Facebook on 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. The Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s report has now been made public. See Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s report for Cause of Death and Means. The Owasso Police Department would like to take this moment to inform anyone in crisis or contemplating suicide of the Oklahoma Mental Health Lifeline, just call or text 988."

Reactions have started to pour in from others across the community and the state of Oklahoma after the examiner's report was released.

Owasso Public Schools issued the following message to students and parents:

Ram Family,
This afternoon the Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner released its summary report regarding the death of Owasso High School student Nex Benedict. An update on the investigation can be found on the Owasso Police Department’s Facebook page.
The loss of Nex, a member of the Ram Family and the Owasso community, is devastating. We understand that the information released today may bring up additional thoughts, feelings and emotions for students and staff members.
Because each person may respond differently, the district employs an experienced team of counselors that are available to students and staff every day. Any student who wishes to see a counselor can do so by visiting the counseling office or may schedule an appointment by emailing their counselor. If you or someone you know are in need of support outside of school hours, please dial 988 for access to free and confidential resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Additionally, the Crisis Text Line is available for emotional crisis support by texting HELLO to 741741.
As we mourn together, OPS remains focused on the safety and well-being of our students and staff. Let’s continue to lean on each other in the days ahead.

The Public Response To Nex Benedict Investigation

Several people, activist groups, and public officials have reacted to the Medical Examiner's report that determined that Nex Benedict, died by suicide.

Page 1 of the report states that a combined overdose of Diphenhydramine and Fluoxetine caused Benedict's death. Many believe that Benedict was the target of bullying because of their non-binary status.

President Joe Biden issued a statement about the Nex Benedict story on Thursday saying that he is committed to ending discrimination and and addressing the suicide crisis in the United States.

Jill and I are heartbroken by the recent loss of Nex Benedict. Every young person deserves to have the fundamental right and freedom to be who they are, and feel safe and supported at school and in their communities. Nex Benedict, a kid who just wanted to be accepted, should still be here with us today.
Nonbinary and transgender people are some of the bravest Americans I know. But nobody should have to be brave just to be themselves. In memory of Nex, we must all recommit to our work to end discrimination and address the suicide crisis impacting too many nonbinary and transgender children. Bullying is hurtful and cruel, and no one should face the bullying that Nex did. Parents and schools must take reports of bullying seriously. My prayers are with Nex’s family, friends, and all who loved them – and to all LGBTQI+ Americans for whom this tragedy feels so personal, know this: I will always have your back.
To LGBTQI+ young people across the country – you are loved exactly as you are. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or alone, you can call or text 988, the National Crisis Hotline, and dial the number ‘3’ to talk to a counselor who has been specifically trained to support LGBTQI+ youth. - President Joe Biden

The School district, prominent members of the LGBTQ community, and various Oklahoma officials have released statements about the findings with some challenging the results.

Full Nex Benedict Coverage

Oklahoma's Attorney General Gentner Drummond posted his statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, to say the results make him concerned that bullying played a major role.

My heart is broken over the tragic death of Nex Benedict. The Medical Examiner’s finding of suicide makes me even more concerned that bullying played a role in this terrible loss. Experts tell us that social media, bullying, and a host of other factors are fueling a rash of suicides among young people, particularly for marginalized and traumatized youth. Combating this problem likely means strengthening laws against bullying, as well as increasing emphasis on mental health services. Perhaps most immediately it means rejecting the cruelty of words and actions so often inflicted by other students, adults, and algorithms on our youngest generations. - Drummond

The president of the Human Rights Campaign, Kelley Robinson, released the following statement, asking for a full investigation to be made:

As parents, we send our kids to school expecting that they will be safe and cared for. Nex was failed by so many and should still be here today. We hold their family in our hearts as they grapple with the devastating reality that their beloved child, a teen with a bright future, is no longer making this world a brighter place.
Nex died one day after being beaten unconscious in a school bathroom, and following more than a year of bullying and harassment at school. This is heartbreaking. And we have heard from so many parents and students that this culture of bullying and harassment is both pervasive at Owasso Public Schools and that many within the school had actual knowledge that it was occurring and took no steps to fix it.
We reiterate our call for a full and complete investigation. Young people in Oklahoma and across the country deserve to be safe and respected at school.

Related: U.S. Department Of Education Opens Investigation Against Owasso Public Schools Following Complaint

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis issued the following statement and reiterated their stance that the school and state failed Benedict:

"There is nothing in this one-page document to explain why the medical examiner checked a box. Media must have learned by now that they need to continue to question what they get from law enforcement and government entities in Oklahoma that have so far failed to protect vulnerable students and responsibly provide information critical for student safety. Nex Benedict's family and the entire state of Oklahoma deserve far more answers and accountability from those charged with keeping Nex and all youth safe. What remains true: Nex Benedict and all LGBTQ and Two Spirit, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming (2STGNC+) youth deserve a world that fights for them to be themselves, to be free from state-sponsored bullying and discrimination. All media reporting on Nex's death and the behavior of public officials before, during and after Nex's death must continue to demand accountability from state leaders about how they are working to protect all youth from harm and when they will stop their relentless attacks proven to cause harm. Our hearts remain with Nex's family and all who grieve this horrific loss and the unacceptable violence that preceded it. It remains imperative that school environments reject bullying in all its forms."

In contrast, Oklahoma's State Superintendent Ryan Walters called Benedict's death a tragic loss but also attacked the "woke mob" for pushing a false narrative.

Statement from Walters’ office:

The loss of our student in Owasso is tragic for the family, the community, and our state. The LGBTQ groups pushing a false narrative are one of the biggest threats to our democracy and I remain, more than ever, committed to never backing down from a woke mob.

This is a developing story. Bookmark this page for Updates.


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