On New Year’s Eve, a medical examiner ruled the death of 17-year-old standout student athlete Bryce Gowdy a suicide. The day before, the Deerfield Beach, FL, native was struck and killed by a train just one week before he was to join Georgia Tech’s football team.
Often, parents have no idea the troubles that lead their teens to take their own lives, but in the wake of Bryce’s death, his mother, Shibbon Winelle, took to Facebook Live to detail the struggles her son and their entire family have been battling. Winelle, who also has two younger sons, said she’s been overwhelmed by phone calls from concerned family and friends so she wanted to go live to respond to everyone at one time. She began her post by sharing that Bryce had started behaving oddly in the days before the tragic incident.
“A few days ago, Bryce was talking crazy,” she said. “He kept talking about the signs and the symbols that he was seeing all over the place. And that he could see the world for what it really was. He kept saying he could see people for who they really are. He was happy though. He was talking about his future. He was talking about going to Georgia Tech and we were having a lot of spiritual conversations … he had a lot of questions. He had a lot of questions about spirituality and life. He kept asking me if I was OK and if his brothers were going to be OK and I kept telling him yeah.”
On December 29, Bryce tweeted that he was looking forward to heading to Atlanta to begin working with the football team at Georgia Tech, but the next day he seemed to have taken a turn for the worst.
”All day, we sat in the car all day yesterday because we didn’t have anywhere else to go,” Winelle shared through tears. And he sat next to me all day, just talking. And I was stressed out. I was too stressed to really deal with it. I kept telling him I had just started my period and we were on the streets again, homeless. The little job I got wasn’t paying me all my money on time or in full and I was so stressed out about taking care of my kids…
“I told him, I said, ‘Bryce, you have to dig within and fight these demons that you’re fighting.’ I told him I wasn’t strong enough to help him right now. That I had my own demons I was trying to fight. He was stressing me out so much that I started getting chest pains.”
Around 10 pm that night, Winelle said she was able to get a hotel for her family. Initially, he stayed in the car while her boys went up to the room.
“Bryce came back downstairs and I sat with him and I started telling him that he needed to get it together and toughen up. Get his mind right. He tried to hold my hand and I told him no because he had me so upset, so anxious. I told him, ‘I can’t deal with that energy right now baby.’ I wouldn’t let him grab my hand, I wouldn’t let him hold my hand because his energy was so intense. I could feel the pain in his soul and it was breaking my heart.”
Eventually, they both went upstairs to the hotel room. Because the room was so cold, Winelle asked Bryce to go back downstairs and get her favorite blanket from the car. When Bryce didn’t return 20 minutes later, Winelle went down to the car and saw that the blanket was gone. She went back up to the room and saw Bryce left his cell phone and his wallet in the room and asked her other son to go look for him.
“I felt something in my soul. I just started balling crying. Brayden came back without him and I started balling crying some more and Brayden was like calm down, he’s okay, but I knew in my hear that that he wasn’t. He talked to his dad yesterday and that’s when it got worse. It got worse after he talked to his dad. Before he talked to his dad, he was just talking for a few days… just talking in circles, about life, about the things that we were going through as a family over the last couple of months being homeless. About the things he had to see me go through because we were homeless. After he talked to his dad, he started getting paranoid. He started talking about not being trapped by doors and mirrors.”
Around 7 am the next morning, Winelle started calling people to see if they’d heard from Bryce. When her brother called to tell her he’d heard a report of someone being hit by a train, she said, “In my heart I knew it was my baby.”
After explaining how she went to the hospital and Identified her son’s body, Winelle tearfully screamed, ”My baby walked in front of a train and he killed himself! I’ve been begging for help for months. For months I’ve been begging for help.”
Winelle ends the 11-minute video there, but her heartbreaking stories has reached the masses. A Go Fund Me page has been started to offer Winelle and her other sons the help she so desperately needs. So far $86,000 has been raised. In response to the sad news, Georgia Tech issued a statement about Bryce’s passing:
“Our entire Georgia Tech football family is devastated by the news of Bryce’s passing,” Georgia Tech football head coach Geoff Collins said. “Bryce was an outstanding young man with a very bright future. He was a great friend to many, including many of our current and incoming team members.”