State investigation continues into South Tahoe fifth-grader’s suicide
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services is continuing its investigation into the suicide of an 11-year-old Stateline boy.
The department is required by state law to examine all child fatalities to see if Nevada’s child protective system can be improved, said Mike Willden, department director.
“We’re investigating it,” Willden said Thursday. “A child died without parents present.”
Chandler Nash-Elliott, a fifth grader at Zephyr Cove Elementary School, was found dead Dec. 14 in his father’s Kingsbury Grade home. The Douglas County Sheriff’s office ruled he died by suicide. A sheriff’s spokesperson said there were no signs of foul play or immediate abuse that played a role in Chandler’s death.
The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services is the umbrella organization that oversees child protective services in the state.
All child deaths are investigated “to see if we can improve Nevada’s child protective system so less children will die as a result of abuse, neglect and exploitation,” Willden said.
Willden could not confirm if Chandler, 11, was the subject of public fatality report filed by the state on Dec. 15, although the information matches Chandler’s location, date of birth and death, suspected cause of death, as well as details that match public court records.
According to the report, Chandler’s family had an open case with Nevada Division of Child and Family Services. Child welfare officials were involved in Chandler’s life from 2001 to 2008 for claims of physical abuse, parental drug use and lack of household necessities to care for a child. These reports were found to be unsubstantiated.
Chandler’s biological parents, David Elliott and Marie “Mini” Barstow, shared joint custody of Chandler, according to court documents. Chandler lived with his father during the week, and spent weekends with his mother and stepfather Gary Barstow, a retired army sergeant.
Mini Barstow said she supports and encourages an investigation into her son’s death.
Elliott could not be reached for comment by press time.
The division last met with Chandler and his father on Nov. 19. According to the report, the state was providing case management services, referrals and “Placement Prevention” funds to the father to restore gas services in the home.
The report also states that Chandler was seeing a school counselor three times a week and often eating lunch with the counselor.
Willden was not able estimate when the department would conclude its investigation.
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