Community in shock after teen allegedly commits suicide
Mother believes bad-mouthing forced daughter over the edgeThursday, March 23, 2017
BY TANESHA MUNDLE Observer staff reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
The last thing members of the McCooks Pen community in Old Harbour, St Catherine, expected to hear was that 14-year-old Kimberly Phillips had committed suicide.
Phillips, who was registered at the Providence Educational Centre at Willowdene in the parish in 2015 as part of the Alternative Secondary Transition Education Programme (ASTEP), died last Thursday after she allegedly ingested a poisonous substance.
While many people in her community and at her school are still in denial, others are left asking why.
When the Jamaica Observer visited McCooks Pen on Tuesday, community members said they were still in shock and could not fathom why Kimberly, who was the only girl and the last of five children for her parents, would kill herself.
"It shock us bad and it touch us, ‘cause all of us are mothers; but she did it because she tell the bartender that she drink poison," one woman said.
"She was a nice little girl and she is a from a very loving family. She nuh want for nothing and there is nothing bad anybody can say about her, but she left everybody fi wonder why she would kill herself," the woman continued.
Another woman said: "A lot of things are being said... but only God knows why. But if it was my child and something happen to her and she nuh tell me and go tek poison, the way how mi would a upset, all when she dead mi still would beat har — that’s how upset I would be."
While community members are clueless as to what might have motivated Kimberly, her mother and sister-in-law believe she committed suicide because of "bad-mouthing".
The distraught mom, Vinnette Simms, said that on the day of her daughter’s death, she had returned home after shopping in Spanish Town, when a family friend approached her and told her that one of Kimberly’s relatives had warned him to keep his children away from the teenager because she was a "bad child".
Simms said she was also told that her daughter had multiple boyfriends and was taking morning-after pills.
According Simms, unknown to her and the bearer of the news, Kimberly had overheard the conversation and came to her afterwards crying. The mother said Kimberly told her that the reports were not true.
Simms said she did not scold her daughter or promise her any whipping, because she did not beat her. Instead, the mother said she called her relative and enquired about why she had not come directly to her about Kimberly. She said her relative told her she was not sure the reports were true.
The mother said she also called her niece, who had a close relationship with her daughter, and asked her if she was aware of Kimberly having any boyfriends and the niece told her no.
Casita, a bartender who works in Simms’ bar, which is adjacent to their home, also told the Observer that before that incident, she had borrowed Kimberly’s phone and was using it to play music via
Youtube inside the bar.
However, she said when Kimberly returned for the phone, a male customer confronted her about the type of music that was being played on the phone and had also complained to her mother about it. The bartender said she had to explain the situation to Simms.
After both incidents, Casita said Kimberly came inside the bar crying. She said she asked the teen if her mother had beaten her, but Kimberly just kept on crying.
"I also noticed that she was holding onto to her chest and was spitting, and then she told mi that she drink poison," the bartender recounted.
Casita said she raised an alarm and went inside the fridge to get some milk for Kimberly, but the teen collapsed. According to the bartender, by the time they got her to hospital, she was pronounced dead.
Casita also said that before the incident, Kimberly was with her, laughing, talking and playing music.
The teen’s sister-in-law, Tracey McKenzie, who attempted to comfort Simms even as tears flowed from her own eyes, said: "It’s just the negativity get to her and she never expect that.
"But that was not true. She always smiling and no one down here have anything bad to say. She was really shy, she nuh talk and she nuh go nowhere, and if she go shop and see anybody she stop," McKenzie said.
Meanwhile, the bartender surmised that Kimberly did not intend to kill herself.
"I don’t think she took the poison with the intention to kill herself. I think she drink (it) but she never know it would a kill her," she said.
According to Simms, Kimberly’s brothers are not coping well and her father is taking her death even harder than her.
"Anything she want mi buy her and if mi nuh buy her, her father buy her," Simms said, while admitting that she had spoiled her daughter.
Kimberly’s mother said she always tried to provide the best of everything for her daughter.
Kimberly’s teacher, Melba Clarke, and school director, Maxine Deans, said they were also shocked when they heard the news and do not believe that the teen killed herself.
"She was very athletic and had (a) very winsome personality. She is a sweet girl who has never fallen out of line. I never had to complain about her or hear any complaints about her from her classmates," Clarke told the
The teacher also said that Kimberly showed great interest in her school work and that she had been preparing her for the grade nine achievement test, and had been taking her home on the weekends to study.
According to Clarke, Kimberly would never kill herself.
"From what I know of her, she would never poison herself. Kimberly don’t event eat from people, she is a happy child,"Clarke added.
Deans, for her part, said the news about Kimberly’s death has left the students and staff at Providence Educational Centre devastated.
"She was one of our prefects and she was loved by all. It was quite a shocking news," she said.
At the same time, Kimberly’s best friend, Nickayla, said she was very saddened and upset about her friend’s death and described her as a very caring girl who was nice to everyone.
On Tuesday, a group of students from Kimberly’s class was observed playing football. According to Dean, they were sent outside to play because if they had remained inside the classroom, they would’ve been in tears.
The school’s director also said that a team from the Ministry of Education had visited the school and promised to offer further grief counselling.
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