Lost & Found

Teen Tragedy Brings New Meaning to Professor’s Memoir

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Brandon BitnerOn the night of Nov. 4, 2010, Brandon’s mother, Tammy Simpson, gave her son a hug and kiss and told him she loved him before going to bed. It was a routine they shared every night. Brandon told Simpson he loved her, too.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said.

“Yep,” Brandon replied, giving no indication that anything was amiss.

“We’re not sure what time he left the house. We just know that he was pronounced dead at 3 a.m.,” Simpson says.

An hour later, Simpson’s alarm went off. She took a shower, got dressed and headed downstairs to make a cup of tea. It was her morning routine. On the kitchen table was a Post-it note from Brandon. This is how they typically communicated anything they forgot to tell one another the night before. This note read, “Mom, read letter on computer.”

“I figured it was a homework assignment or something like that,” Simpson says.

Simpson went over to the computer and hit the mouse. The letter that popped up was not what she expected. “The first sentence I read was, ‘On this day, Nov. 5, I am taking my life.’ And I was like, ‘What?’ It didn’t register. But as I continued to read, it hit me, ‘Oh my God, this is Brandon’s suicide note,’” Simpson recalls.

Simpson immediately called the police, and then began dialing family and friends. As the morning wore on, reports started coming in about “something going on” seven miles down the road on Routes 11 & 15. Although it seemed too far away for Brandon to walk on a night that dropped into the low 30s, a friend went to the scene to see what she could learn. She was hysterical when she reported back. “All they’ll tell me is it’s a 14-year-old boy.”

Grasping for hope, Simpson says she was in complete denial. Then came the fateful knock at the door that no parent wants to answer. “When I opened the door, my husband came through first, then the detective and the officer. As soon as I saw the detective and the officer, I knew. They didn’t even have to say anything,” Simpson says.

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