Investigators are trying to determine if a 12-year-old boy who died on Sunday had been bullied at his school or if the punches he took in the schoolyard were an isolated incident.
"I don't think the other little boys meant to kill him," Bailey O'Neill's step-grandfather said today.
O’Neill died after his family took him off of life support. The sixth grader from Darby Township School had been in a medically-induced coma due to seizures. His family has said their son was bullied and that the seizures were provoked by injuries O'Neill suffered when he was beat up at school.
"The district attorney, everybody agrees this is a terrible tragedy for the family," said NBC10's Harry Hairston who was out at the school today, where the flag was lowered to half-staff and where counselors were on hand to help students and staff cope. Investigators were also back at the school, conducting a second round of interviews.
“Right now investigators are telling me there was no history of anything that shows they [O'Neill and two other boys] had bad blood between them,” said NBC10’s Harry Hairston. “Their point of view right now is that they don’t have any information to say, absolutely, that this is a case of bullying,” Hairston said.
O’Neill’s parents say he was jumped by two other boys at school on January 10. They took him to the hospital where he was treated for a concussion and broken nose. Thirteen days later, O’Neill began having seizures. He was hospitalized and at that point, doctors placed him into a medically-induced coma, hoping his health would improve.
Instead of getting better, O’Neill’s condition worsened. He developed pneumonia and at one point needed a blood transfusion, according to his grandmother, Joy Fecanin.
“I would like to see these kids punished,” Fecanin said last month after the seizures began. “Something has to be done. I don’t know what’s taking them so long."
Two boys were suspended after the school fight. Investigators told Hairston only one of the boys was physically fighting with O’Neill and that the fight may have started when O’Neill was pushed into one of the other boys.
District Attorney Jack Whelan said he expects to wrap up his investigation in two weeks’ time. One critical piece of evidence he’s waiting on will come from the Philadelphia medical examiner. O’Neill’s autopsy is being performed today.
Whelan wants to know if the injuries from the schoolyard fight ultimately led to the boy’s death.
“When I asked him if he thinks the student would be charged one way or another, he seemed to indicate that at the most, an appropriate charge may be simple assault,” Hairston said.
The child who threw the punches has never been disciplined before, according to Whelan.
"We, in the district attorney's office, and law enforcement, and the criminal justice system would have to be able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the death of Bailey was the result of the incident," Whelan said.
Funeral arrangements for O’Neill start on Friday with a viewing from 6 to 9 p.m. at Cavanaugh's Funeral Home in Norwood, Pa. His funeral is on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at St. Joe's Church in Collingdale.