Bailey O’Neill was not a boy who liked confrontation.
“He was an honor roll student. He was smart. He was loving,” said Jina Risoldi, fighting back tears as she prepared to bury her son.
Bailey turned 12 on Saturday and died on Sunday after his family took him off of life support at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. It was the end of an agonizing seven weeks that started with a fight at school on January 10.
Bailey’s family says he was jumped by another boy, who they characterize as a bully. That boy’s accused of punching Bailey in the face. The sixth grader came home from Darby Township School that day with a broken nose and a black eye.
“I asked him why he did not fight back and he said he didn’t want to get in trouble,” Risoldi said.
Two weeks later, Bailey was in a medically-induced coma after suffering seizures. His family believes those seizures were related to the school beating.
“He was a perfectly healthy boy before January 10,” Risoldi said. “I really believed in my heart that he was going to get better.”
As they plan Bailey's funeral, the family is also awaiting the results of his autopsy, which should determine whether his death was related in any way to the beating. The medical examiner said today he did not expect to rule on a cause of death for several weeks.
Condolences have poured in from the community, the school, and the family of the boy accused in the beating.
“I feel sorry you know,” the boy’s father told NBC10’s Katy Zachry. We aren’t using the father’s name in order to protect the identity of his son, who is a minor. “I don’t know the family, but no one wants death on anybody,” he said. “I feel sorry for the young man and I feel sorry for my son because my son’s depicted as a bully.”
His son was suspended by the school for two days, along with another student after the beating. The Delaware County dad said his son is “not the monster everybody is trying to make him out to be” and that he does not expect the findings from the autopsy to lead back to his son.
“He was a great brother and he’s going to be missed,” Risoldi said. She wants people to remember him as that well-liked kid who never started fights.
Bailey O’Neill’s funeral mass is at St. Joe’s Church in Collingdale this Saturday morning at 11 a.m.