The fresh-faced star centre of the Lethbridge Hurricanes hockey team spoke earnestly into a microphone at the local radio station. “It’s good to be part of a winning team. But we don’t win every game,” said Bryan Bosch, 20. “We can’t give up just because things aren’t going our way at the moment.” The language was sports page, but Bosch’s address was in fact a rallying cry to a community reeling from the apparent
suicide of three 14-year-old boys between Dec. 15 and March 8. Police now say that they are investigating reports that the deaths resulted from a suicide pact that may have been linked to satanic rituals. Said Douglas Shepherd, spokesman for the Alberta government’s department of family and social services: “Lethbridge now realizes that it is not immune to this type of disaster. People may now feel different about their kids.”
What the southern Alberta community of 60,000 faced was the fact that three of its young people were dead—and reports that more than 50 of its boys and girls may have been involved in planned suicide pacts. “There is a satanic group in town,” psychiatric consultant Dr. David Davies told reporters. Still, some police officers and social workers said that satanic influences probably did not play an important part in the deaths of the three boys. Lethbridge Police Chief Terrance Wauters told reporters that police officers who searched two homes where Lethbridge teenagers regularly
met did not find any objects that could have been used in satanic rituals.
The first death occurred on Dec. 15, when Chilton Thur hanged himself in the Lethbridge home of one of his friends. Then, on March 2, Thur’s friend Wayne Townsend was found hanged in a house shared by a group of young people. Six days later, his friend Ashley Merrick was found hanging in the basement of his grandmother’s home. Shepherd said that
friends of the dead teenagers told social workers that they had been involved in a suicide pact. As well, some teenagers reported the existence of lists naming other teenagers who were supposed to be involved in suicide pacts. Shepherd said that interviews with the dead boys’ friends led to 10 other teenagers, several of whom were distraught at finding their names on suicide lists, being hospitalized or taken into protective care.
As Lethbridge struggled to deal with the crisis among its young people, community leaders set up a broadly based community coalition designed to advise parents, students and other citizens on how to handle the traumatic incidents. Said Rev. Wayne Larson of Lethbridge’s First Baptist Church: “Families needed to be shook up a bit, to know more about what their kids are doing and thinking.” It was the same message that hockey star Bosch was trying to convey to his shaken fellow citizens.
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