Mother of Georgia Tech recruit gives tearful account of days leading up to his suicide

National News

(CBS News) – A video posted to YouTube shows the mother of a Georgia Tech recruit who died earlier this week giving an emotional account of the days leading up to her son’s death. Authorities in South Florida ruled 17-year-old Bryce Gowdy’s death a suicide after he jumped in front of a freight train on Monday, CBS affiliate WGCL-TV reported. 

Shibbon Winelle, Gowdy’s mother, said she was having spiritual conversations about life with Bryce, but felt something was off about him. “A few days ago, Bryce was talking crazy… He was happy though, he was talking about his future,” she said, while tearing up. “He was talking about going to Georgia Tech. He had a lot of questions about spirituality and life. He kept asking if I was ok, if his brothers were going to be ok. I said, ‘yeah.'”  

In the video, Winelle explained the family had fallen on hard times and was again homeless less than a day before Gowdy’s death. “We sat in the car yesterday because we didn’t have anywhere to go.”

deerfield-beach-florida-high-school-football-star-bryce-gowdy.jpg
Deefield Beach (Florida) High School football star Bryce Gowdy died earlier this week.WPEC-TV

“He sat next to me just talking,” she added. “I was stressed. I was too stressed to really deal with it. We were on the streets again, homeless. The little job I got wasn’t paying me my money on time or in full. I was so stressed about it taking care of my kids.” 

She got a hotel room and when they finally arrived at the hotel, she sat inside her car while dealing with chest pain as her boys went inside. Bryce later came back to find his mother and talk to her. 

“[Bryce] sat with me.  He tried to hold my hand,” she said. “I wouldn’t let him hold my hand because his energy was so intense. I could feel the pain in his soul and it was breaking my heart.” 

They returned to the hotel room and she later asked Bryce to retrieve her favorite blanket from the car. After not showing up for 20 minutes, she began to look for him. 

“I couldn’t find him anywhere,” she said. “I came back up to the room and I saw he left his phone, and his wallet and shoes. I sat there for a minute. I know you’re going to come back. He still didn’t show up.”

“I knew in my heart he wasn’t [ok],” she said. “He was talking in circles. The things he had to see me go through because we were homeless.”

Winelle then found out through her brother about a person who was killed nearby by a freight train. She arrived at the hospital and identified the body of Gowdy. “I’ve been begging for help for months,” she said as the video ended. “For months, I’ve been begging for help.” 

Gowdy was a standout wide receiver and defensive back for Deerfield Beach High School. CBS West Palm Beach affiliate WPEC-TV said Gowdy was scheduled to start classes at Georgia Tech this Monday.

“Our entire Georgia Tech football family is devastated by the news of Bryce’s passing,” Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football head coach Geoff Collins said in a statement released by the school.

A recent study reported an uptick in self-reported suicide attempts for black adolescents. According to “Trends of Suicidal Behaviors Among High School Students in the United States: 1991-2017,” suicide attempts among black children and teens rose by 73% between 1991 to 2017. 

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

For more information about mental health care resources and support, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email info@nami.org.

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