A woman who was convicted of creating an environment that contributed to her 12-year-old son’s suicide after constant bullying at school received a suspended sentence Friday.
Judith Scruggs showed no visible emotion as she was placed on probation for five years by Superior Court Judge Stephen Frazzini. She also must undergo counseling and perform 100 hours of community service.
J. Daniel Scruggs hanged himself in his bedroom closet with a necktie on Jan. 2, 2002.
“I’ll miss him dearly every day of my life,” Judith Scruggs told reporters outside the courthouse.
Scruggs, 52, told police Daniel was afraid of bullies who had kicked and punched him, and he slept in his closet with knives out of fear. A filthy home contributed to his body odor, which apparently contributed to the bad situation at school, and authorities said his mother should have done more to improve the situation.
Conviction may be a first
Legal experts said they believe the conviction, on a risk of injury charge, may have been the first time a parent was found guilty of contributing to her child’s suicide.
“The law requires parents and care givers to protect their children, to keep them safe, to make sure they are not subjected to risks to their health,” Frazzini said.
Witnesses described a home where there was barely room to move because of clothes, boxes, papers and debris covering the floor. The air was foul. The bathroom floor and tub were covered with clothes, the fixtures soiled.
Scruggs’ attorney described her as a single parent who worked long hours to support two children. Her supporters rallied outside the courthouse Friday morning, with one holding a sign that read “Punish the bullies, not the grieving mothers.”
Scruggs could have received up to 10 years in prison, but prosecutors instead recommended probation. She has filed suit against the city and school system, claiming teachers and others did not do enough to protect her son from bullies.