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New Bedford Boy Dead After Apparent Suicide03:30
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Clifford Rodrigues (Courtesy)
Clifford Rodrigues (Courtesy)

Officials in New Bedford are investigating the death of a 12-year-old who they believe hanged himself in his home. It is the second apparent suicide of a young boy in the city in less than a year.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell calls it a tragedy.

"Our city is grieving — losing your child, especially in this way, is unfathomable," Mitchell said.

Clifford Rodrigues, a sixth grader at Roosevelt Middle School, was found unconscious in a bedroom closet on Tuesday. He'd been suspended from school that day, following a fight.

"The kid punched him in the face," said Christina Duarte, Clifford's mother.

"The kid was pushing him, pushing him and he told the kid to stop. The kid swung at him and he swung back, said, 'I'm going to defend myself,' and that's what he did," she said. "He got suspended for a day, but I told him he was punished and he got mad and he went upstairs and I thought he was going to put music on in my mother's room like he usually does."

It is the second apparent suicide of a young boy in the city in less than a year.

After a while she went upstairs to check on Clifford, because he was too quiet, she said. That's when Duarte found her son, unresponsive. He'd apparently hanged himself.

"I think it was an accident. I don't think he did it on purpose, he probably did it to have me upset or freak out. He didn't mean to do that to himself," she said.

Duarte believes in some way Clifford's death is tied to that of his friend Elijah Lopes, the 11-year-old New Bedford boy who committed suicide last March.

"They were good friends, and my son I guess copied him," Duarte said. "My son doesn't do stuff like that, he's an outgoing person. Always laughin,' jokin' around. You know, I just think that because he seen (sic) that, it's the same thing. If my son never seen that, it would never cross his mind, you know."

While Elijah's mother said he'd been bullied, Clifford's mother doesn't believe her son was.

"He wasn't bullied as far as I know, he wasn't bullied, he'd gotten into conflicts at school and things like that, he wasn't bullied," she said. "I just don't know why, just don't understand why. I don't know why, you know."

Authorities also don't believe bullying was a factor in Clifford's death. They said, "there's no evidence of that."

Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter said it's hard to "wrap your head around" the suicides of two young boys.

"What is particularly excruciating about this for the city is that this is the second time within a year that this has happened to a preteen," Sutter said.

While New Bedford Police continue their investigation, the school district is providing counseling for students and faculty, and the city is reevaluating its policies to determine if more can be done to prevent such tragedies.

This program aired on February 2, 2012.

Delores Handy Twitter Reporter
Delores Handy was formerly a host and reporter at WBUR.

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