Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

At a vigil, friends remember Nex Benedict as ‘fiery kid’

By 37ci3 Feb26,2024

Ally, a senior at Owasso High School in Oklahoma, said the last thing Nex Benedict said to them was “happy birthday.”

Nex got into a fight at school on February 7th, Ally’s birthday he died the next day. Nex’s mother, Sue Benedict, he said To Independent 16-year-old Nex was bullied because of her gender identity. As a result, his death has become a rallying cry for LGBTQ activists as Oklahoma and states across the country consider dozens of bills targeting the community.

Ally, who used they/them pronouns and asked to be identified only by first name to protect their privacy, said in an interview that she and Nex are close friends.

“It was one of those things where you meet them and you automatically feel like you’ve known them for years,” Ally said Sunday before a vigil for Nex, who they met at the beginning of the school year. “They were a very adventurous little thing. There was never a dull moment with them.”

Ally said that Nex primarily goes by her pronouns at school, but also uses the same pronouns that Nex’s family uses. Several other friends said Nex preferred those pronouns.

The Owasso Police Department said in a statement Wednesday that preliminary information from the autopsy report Nex-in death was not the result of trauma. A toxicology test is still ongoing and an official autopsy will be released at a later date.

Branch On Friday, he released a series of videos offering a glimpse The day before Nex’s death, including body camera video from a police officer’s interview with Nex, he described how three students “jumped” him after throwing water on him and a friend for insulting him.

Ally and Nex’s friend group said they would always get in trouble, especially in art class for laughing too loud. Nex, also known as “Roach” or “Roachie” to his friends, was a talented artist and could spend 30 minutes working on something that was a “masterpiece,” Ally said.

Ally said the moment they saw the news article about the Owasso student dying after a fight, they knew it was Nex because Nex told Ally and his other friends in the group chat that he was fighting.

“They were always someone who wasn’t afraid to be who they were,” Ally said. “Like wherever they went, you were going to accept them, if you didn’t, it was your problem, and they were going to make it your problem. They were very confrontational.”

Ally was one of several people who shared stories about Nex at an event Sunday at Redbud Festival Park in Owasso.

Tyler Wrynn, one of Nex’s teachers at the Owasso 8th Grade Center, told NBC News that Nex wasn’t on his list before the meeting, only because they knew “he and a lot of weird kids are in my room all the time.” Wrynn suggested “a safe place.”

“Nex was a fiery kid,” Wrynn said. “He would light up a room and jump in to defend any of his friends if they were singled out.”

Wrynn said at the party that her favorite memories of Nex are when she goes out on the bus service every day after school. Nex would shout “I’m going to fight you” across campus and challenge Wrynn over “absurd things like cartoons,” Wrynn said. One day he won Wrynn’s Ford Mustang. Next time Nex wins, he’ll move to Wrynn’s class.

Among the unanswered questions surrounding Nex and her death is how she identified herself in the LGBTQ community. Sue Benedict told The Independent that Nex “do not see themselves as male or female. Nex found themselves in the middle.”

Robin Gray, 16, said she had been dating Nex off and on and began her speech by clarifying how she knew Nex.

“I want to start by saying that Nex is transgender and she uses pronouns,” Gray said. “He was more than trans.”

Gray said one of his favorite memories with Nex was the first time Nex cooked for him. She made Gray Wings with various seasonings, and the next morning she made pancakes.

Spencer, who went by his first name only on the show, said he was Nex’s partner and helped Nex come out as gay to his parents.

“He made things look easy,” Spencer said. “He kept the energy levels high. He always kept the room in a good mood. Whether he was smiling or not, he was always one of the brightest kids in the room.”

Anna Richardson, a local business owner, said she started organizing the vigil after her son, an Owasso class, told her about what happened to Nex and LGBTQ students being bullied outside the school. She said students at home had daily conversations about whether they had space at school to process Nex’s death, and that her son told her, “Nobody can or is allowed to talk about it.”

So he asked Nex’s family if they could plan a vigil for the community to remember and grieve Nex, and Nex’s great-grandmother said yes, even though the family wasn’t in attendance.

“It’s important to me that this is a safe place in our community to honor a child who died senselessly,” Richardson said before the banquet.

Ally said in art class that their once boisterous group was quieter without Nex. Despite constant reports of Nex’s death, Ally said they are in denial.

“For some reason, even when I’m at a funeral, I always look for them wherever I go. I watched as they were placed on the floor. I was one of the last people to leave,” Ally said. “I always look for them in the crowd and still wait for them to come back to our classroom. I miss them very much.”

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By 37ci3

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