NYPD to Probe Bullying Link in 12-Year-Old East Harlem Boy's Suicide

Joel Morales' mother found him in the bathroom of their East Harlem apartment

Friday, Jun 1, 2012  |  Updated 11:01 AM EDT
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A 12-year-old East Harlem boy harassed by school bullies about his intelligence, his height and his deceased father hanged himself in the apartment he shared with his mother Tuesday night, according to relatives and those who knew him. Roseanne Colletti reports.

A 12-year-old East Harlem boy harassed by school bullies about his intelligence, his height and his deceased father hanged himself in the apartment he shared with his mother Tuesday night, according to relatives and those who knew him. Roseanne Colletti reports.

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Police are investigating whether bullying led to the suicide of a 12-year-old boy who hanged himself in his East Harlem apartment.

Family members say Joel Morales killed himself because he had been repeatedly picked on by other students about his height, his intelligence and, most recently, his deceased father. 

Relatives said the bullying didn't end even when Joel transferred from one East Harlem school to another. They said they asked to be moved to another housing project but were turned down. 

The city Department of Education and the Housing Authority told The New York Times that they could not comment. 

Joel's half-brother, Richard Salazar, said Joel's father also committed suicide. He jumped off a building when Joel was a baby.

An occupational therapist who worked with Morales at one of the schools because of his small 4 foot 9 stature told NBC 4 New York the boy only reluctantly talked about his problems.

"It was very difficult, especially with a child like Joel who wants so badly to please everyone, to see that he was really in pain, that he was struggling," said Maria Ubiles.

Arlene Gago, a youth minister from a church group said she spoke with Morales regularly at the Jefferson Houses where he lived but never knew of his distress.

"I always asked him, 'How you doing? How's school?'" she said. "We talked but he'd never tell me what was going on."

A classmate told Morales’ family that the boy had said he was tired of the bullying and told them the details of the remark about his father that sent him over the edge. School officials declined to comment on the alleged bullying, citing privacy issues.

Police said Morales left no suicide note.

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