The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

November 14, 2011

Sheriff’s Dept. looks into death

BY BRIAN L. HUCHEL
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — The Vermilion County Sheriff’s Department continues to look into allegations that bullying led a young Ridge Farm girl to take her own life last week.

Ashlynn Conner was pronounced dead just before 9 p.m. Friday at Provena United Samaritans Medical Center by the Vermilion County coroner.

The Vermilion County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed it was a suicide.

Sheriff Pat Hartshorn said investigators are investigating the angle of bullying because it was first reported by Ashlynn’s family members.

“We’ve interviewed the friends supposedly involved in it,” he said early Monday evening. “We haven’t uncovered anything so severe that it would result in someone taking their own life.”

Hartshorn said investigators also are interviewing other friends and relatives of Ashlynn as part of the investigation. So far, no new evidence has emerged to indicate a motive.

As part of the investigation, Hartshorn said several items were retrieved from the girl’s room. He indicated investigators worked throughout recent days looking into the death. The investigation is “far from over,” he said Sunday night.

Autopsy results were expected Monday, but the Vermilion County Coroner’s Office was directing all questions regarding the case to the sheriff’s department.

Grief counselors and social service workers were on hand Monday at Ridge Farm Elementary to help students handle the news. Many students were talking to the counselors, according to Georgetown-Ridge Farm Superintendent Kevin Tate.

He added everyone at the school was dealing with the loss of Ashlynn.

“Not only students, but staff are just devastated,” he said Monday afternoon, adding the counselors are there “if students want to talk.”

“There’s nothing wrong with teachers showing emotion,” he said. “They are professionals. They’re doing their job. It’s a good staff.”

Tate, a longtime educator and school superintendent, said it is going to take a while for the school to get past Ashlynn’s death.

“We’ve had students die of illness and accidents, but this is different,” he said. “For a student as young as she was, it’s different.”

He said counselors will be available for several days, if needed. Several area school districts have contacted Georgetown-Ridge Farm in recent days to offer the school assistance in helping students and staff deal with the death.

Tate said students and staff will be excused if they want to attend Ashlynn’s funeral services, which are scheduled for Wednesday.

A vigil was conducted Monday night at the Friends Church in Ridge Farm in Ashlynn’s memory. Other vigils also have been announced.