Remembered for his sense of humor and love of theater, Pacheco, 17, was a junior at Linden High School and the middle of five children. He came out to his mother, Lynn Capehart, just two months ago, though Lynn says she wasn’t surprised—and loved her son just the same.
But neither Lynn nor Josh’s stepfather, Michael Capehart, were aware that their son was a victim of bullying.
After his death, she found out from students that her son had been pushed into lockers and teased at school. It wasn’t surprising that he didn’t tell many people about it, Lynnette Capehart said, because Pacheco never wanted to make anyone else upset.
“He was having problems with bullying. He didn’t really want to tell us very much,” she said. “It was very disheartening to me.”
The weekend after Thanksgiving, Pacheco talked to his sisters, questioning life and his future — comments that worried his parents. His mother talked to him that Sunday and on Monday, Nov. 26, set up an appointment for him to see a counselor on Wednesday — even though he seemed back to his normal, “quirky” self.
Around lunch time on Nov. 27, Michael Capehart saw Josh’s Facebook status, quoting a line from Bilbo Baggins, a character in the “Lord of the Rings” movies: “I regret to announce that this is the end. I’m going now, I bid you all a very fond farewell. Goodbye.”
It immediately worried Michael Capehart. Pacheco was home sick that day, so Capehart called his neighbor to check on Pacheco. He was found unresponsive in his truck, which had been running in the closed-up garage.
He left a note in the truck: “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to be strong enough.”
More than 400 people attended Josh’s funeral on Saturday, when teachers confirmed that Josh had been bullied for being gay. Lynn says she was never told of her son’s hardship while he was still alive.
“We weren’t aware of any specifics,” said Linden High superintendent Ed Koledo. “There’s been a lot of stories that have turned up over the weekend that we are looking into. We are trying to put new programs into place, so [students] feel more comfortable [talking to administrators].”
School officials have accelerated plans for a bullying-prevention hotline, while the district mulls bringing in speakers to discuss teen suicide. Koledo said administrators will also be in contact with staff on what constitutes bullying and how to handle it.
Michael Capehart says he will be in constant communication with the school until action is taken against the students who bullied Josh. “After years of bullying, look what it can do to a life,” he said.