No Charges Will be Filed Over Nex Benedict’s Death or Preceding Fight, DA Says

This article contains mentions of suicide and violence against a transgender person.

No criminal charges will be filed in the death of Nex Benedict, Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen Kunzweiler said this week, calling the fight that preceded their sudden death “mutual combat.”

Benedict, a 16-year-old high school sophomore, died on February 8 following a fight with three alleged bullies the previous day, which Benedict said caused him to briefly lose consciousness. In a press release Thursday which uses Benedict’s deadname, Kunzweiler wrote that in his analysis of police reports, Benedict and his attackers “were antagonizing each other” for days prior to the fight, and juvenile charges would not hold up in court.

“From all of the evidence gathered, this was a case of mutual combat,” the DA asserted.

Kunzweiler also referenced the still-to-be-released report from the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, saying their autopsy “did not uncover any evidence of an internal injury” that would have caused Benedict’s death. Instead, Kunzweiler stood behind the examiner’s preliminary announcement last week, writing that Benedict died by suicide from a combined overdose of diphenhydramine and fluoxetine, known by their brand names Benadryl and Prozac. (Medical toxicologist Dr. Joshua King told The Advocate last week that death from such overdoses is “very rare,” but not impossible.)

Although Kunzweiler has thrown his weight behind the official story, LGBTQ+ advocates and Benedict’s own family have expressed doubts or outright skepticism as the case unfolds. Biby Law Firm, which represents the Benedict family, released a statement last week with additional unreleased findings from the autopsy, “particularly those that contradict allegations of the assault on Nex being insignificant.” Those physical injuries allegedly include lacerations, hemorrhages, and bruising across Benedict’s head, neck, and torso.

“As the media and public await the release of the full report, the Benedicts want to ensure other pertinent portions of the report are not overshadowed by the ‘classification’ of Nex’s death,” the statement reads in part.

Suspicions regarding the official autopsy increased last week after it became widely known that Oklahoma’s Chief Medical Examiner has operated unaccredited since 2009 — nearly 15 years. The office’s budget was slashed even further in 2016. As of last year, the office reported between 800 and 900 pending examinations that were over three months old due to staff shortages. Advocates have also called for state Superintendent for Public Instruction Ryan Walters to resign or be removed from office, alleging his virulent anti-trans politics and support for “Libs of TikTok” founder Chaya Raichik created an unsafe environment for LGBTQ+ students in Oklahoma.

“Everyone from Superintendent Walters and Owasso High School to the unaccredited-since-2009 state Medical Examiner’s Office, the District Attorney, and Owasso Police Department have failed Nex Benedict and failed us all,” GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis wrote in a series of posts this week on X, formerly Twitter. Ellis also called for an independent investigation into Benedict’s death. (Officials at the Department of Education confirmed they are investigating the case earlier this month.)

“We will never stop seeking justice for Nex,” Ellis wrote, “and we will never stop holding leaders accountable to serving their communities fairly and with compassion.”

If you are in crisis, please call, text, or chat with the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

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