October 25, 2014

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Fifth-grade boy found hanging in his bedroom

WAKEMAN — By all accounts, Zachery Malott was like any other 10-year-old boy.

Malott

He liked skateboarding, was talking about joining the football team or the band next year and had recently received the new “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.” Like other kids, he had been playing the game nonstop since it was released.

But Sunday, Zachery’s mother, Robin Malott, and her boyfriend, Guy Krause, found Zachery dead in his room, hanging from a scarf tied to a curtain rod. The Erie County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death to determine if it was a suicide or accidental.

Malott said there were no signs that Zachery was suicidal.

He had been playing video games all night and was tired, so she believed he was sleeping in his room. She went to check on him at 1:30 p.m. when she brought him his favorite snack of PayDays and beef jerky. He was sleeping, she said.

He was found later that day, at 5:09 p.m. Sunday, after briefly coming downstairs to get a snack and talking to Krause.

Police said Zachery had a scarf tied around his neck like a noose. A standing oscillating fan was lying on the floor, within reach of Zachery’s legs, according to an Erie County sheriff’s report.

Police also found a box in Zachery’s room containing clonazepam pills, which were prescribed to Krause. The pills are a type of tranquilizer used to treat panic attacks.

Malott said she did not know why the pills were in Zachery’s room, but she said Zachery showed no signs of depression and was a “happy kid.”

“I just don’t understand,” Malott said several times. “He always, always loved life. Yes, he had his moods or whatever, but nothing to indicate that he would hurt himself.”

Malott recounted Sunday with every detail, looking for a sign that would explain Zachery’s death.

He had spoken to her earlier that day, asking if he had to go to school Monday.

Zachery had been suspended after a fight at school involving one of his friends. Malott said kids at recess were “playing around” when someone was pushed too hard. She said Zachery was sticking up for a friend when both boys were suspended.

According to an Erie County sheriff’s report, Zachery had pushed the student too hard and that student struck him on the cheek. Zachery was one of the students suspended for two days and was due back in school on Monday.

“He said, ‘Mom, do I have to go to school tomorrow?’ ” Malott recalled.

Krause told police he believed Zachery was “terrified to go to school,” according to the sheriff’s report, but neither Krause nor Malott believed the incident would cause him to want to harm himself.

Zachery was a fifth-grade student at Firelands Elementary School. Superintendent Robert Hill declined to comment on the boy’s death, citing the sheriff’s investigation, but said the Lorain County Crisis Team was at the school this week to help grieving students.

The Crisis Team offers counseling to students any time there is a death in the school, Hill said.

“We’re trying to deal with the fall-out of the passing right now,” he said. “Some students are taking the death harder than others.”

Malott said Zachery made a strange comment about “the end of the world” on Dec. 21, a day some attribute to the end of times because of the end of the Mayan calendar. Other than that comment, Malott said Zachery was “happy go lucky.”

“Zachery was a sweetheart and loving,” Malott said. “He was always looking out for people.”

She talked about a time when Zachery offered a boy $3, all of the money in his pocket, just to help him out.

Zachery was looking forward to Thanksgiving, she said, and had talked about getting a ham. He was talking about joining the band and playing the trombone and had been approached to play football.

Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth said Zachery’s death is under investigation because the parents said there were no signs that he would harm himself. Sigsworth said investigators are trying to determine whether the incident may be accidental.

“Whether this is a suicide or whether this is accidental will be determined by the coroner,” he said.

According to the sheriff’s report, Krause said he believed the death may have been influenced by something in the video game Zachery was playing. Malott said Zachery mentioned kids at school who would “make themselves pass out.”

Although she expressed doubt that Zachery’s death was a suicide, she still questions whether things were that bad at school.

“I have just been trying to understand and think would he be that upset to go to school when he loved school?” she said.

Zachery was survived by his mother; father, Rodney Malott of West Virginia; brother Rodney Clayton Malott of Wakeman, and sisters, Courtney Hamar of Broadview Heights and Brittany Hamar of Garfield Heights. He was also survived by a half sister, grandparents and aunts and uncles.

The family will receive friends 10 a.m. until the time of the service at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Riddle Funeral Home, 5345 South St. in Vermilion.

Memorial contributions can be made to Riddle Funeral Home in memory of Zachery.

Malott said she is thankful for the support she has received already from the community.

“All the support has really helped,” she said. “I just want people to know that Zachy was loved and he was loving.”

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.