The Tragic Story of Nex Benedict Is About Far More Than the Vulture Media's Exploitative Narrative

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Now that we have the full autopsy report for Dagney (Nex) Benedict, many of the questions surrounding her overdose have been answered. The full report, released by the Chief Medical Officer and Board of Medicolegal Investigations on March 27th, 2024, confirms what the earlier Medical Examiner’s Office reported on March 13th, 2024. There were “massive” amounts of Diphenhydramine, more commonly known over the counter as Benadryl,” in Dagney’s blood.

Dr. Paul Wax, the Executive Director of the American College of Toxicology, reviewed the results and confirmed she could have consumed 50 to 100 pills to reach that toxicity level. Her routine medication, fluoxetine, for bipolar disorder was present and may have contributed, a second authority concluded. Her death was intentionally self-inflicted.

The report indicated, “The 11 pages released indicate handwritten notes ‘suggestive of self-harm’ were found in Nex’s room by family members, and that the teen has a history of ‘bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, self-harm (cutting).’”

While advocacy groups remain insistent that her distress sourced from bullying at school, Dagney did not indicate this in her last notes. The Owasso Police Department released a statement saying, “Although the notes do not make any reference to the earlier fight or difficulties at school, the parents indicated that Benedict reported being picked upon for various reasons while at school.”

As is usual in these cases, there is much more to the story. A hint was provided by the Washington Post on February 21st, 2024, that never made it beyond that report. Describing Dagney’s funeral, the article states that Dagney’s cousin spoke “along with her mother and Benedict. Nex’s biological mother was among the mourners; their father, who is in prison for abuse, was not.” That last detail may have been more impactful than realized.

On July 17th, 2019, when Dagney was 11 years old, an arrest warrant was issued for James Everette Hughes, Dagney’s father. He was arrested on July 31st, 2019, in Sebastian County, AR. The charge was for rape of a minor under the age of 14, during the time period between May 2017 and August 2017, when Dagney was nine years old. Among many witnesses was Sue Benedict, the grandmother who would adopt Dagney in 2019.

Hughes would accept a plea deal to sexual assault in the second degree on November 27th, 2019. He was sentenced to five years in prison with ten years suspended. He would be placed on the sex offender list and have no contact with his daughter. He was arrested again on January 25th, 2024, by the Little Rock Police Department for failing to comply with reporting as a sex offender, two weeks before Dagney would take her own life.

Hughes’ new case, in Pulaski County, AR, 60CR-24-894: State v. James Everette Hughes, was filed on March 5th, 2024 for the offense of failing to register as a sex offender or report address change. His next court date is scheduled for May 2nd, 2024. Hughes’ arrest record can be found here, LRCR-24-389, filed on January 26th, 2024.

Case details are difficult to read, and the following information is graphic. In the report, Dagney, age 11, would tell investigators her father anally raped her when she was nine years old. She reported he had molested her for years prior.

The case details and documents can be found here, 66FCR-19-560: State v. James Everette Hughes, and the Sebastian County AR Inmate Inquiry. Jeremy L. Quinn, a reporter, broke the details of her father in a series of tweets and TikTok videos, which launched this investigation into official records. He provides additional details of family members sharing their experience, including the recent arrest of her father.

The group, Bikers Against Child Abuse, was named as a beneficiary for donations at Nex’s funeral, as reported by Quinn and they provided a funeral procession. He states, “A rep confirmed to me that Nex was ‘a BACA kid’ who would receive support. Fellow survivors in the program get road vests, a road name, and support other survivors.”

Quinn also provided screenshots from Dagney’s aunt, sharing childhood photos and describing the abuse her brother committed, disowning him.

Dagney, referred to as D.H. in the files, along with her birth name and the name of a younger sibling, would be adopted by Sue Benedict and relocated to Oklahoma to rebuild her life. She was a survivor who endured extreme trauma from someone she was supposed to be able to trust. Her life was upended, and she understandably struggled greatly. Bullying from other students may have impacted her more deeply than she let on, but from the evidence she provided, her pain was much, much more profound.

Dagney, who went by Nex, Roach and Roachie, according to her friends and social media accounts, again provided by the research of Quinn above, identified as gender fluid, nonbinary, two-spirited and trans. She used they/them and he/him pronouns off and on, and her preferred identity changed depending on her social environment — something common with many teenagers.

However, despite media headlines, there is no evidence she was specifically targeted for her gender identity. While much of the conversation has surrounded the confrontation in the bathroom with younger girls and the resulting physical injuries suffered by everyone involved, it truly no longer matters. Alleged anti-LGBTQ legislation or alleged anti-LGBTQ rhetoric by Republicans or conservative figures outspoken against progressive LGBTQ activism in schools was simply not involved.

Dagney was fighting an internal battle, suffering with serious mental health issues, depression, and anxiety. She engaged in self-harm, experienced mood swings, and, per her grandmother’s 911 call, had to be carefully monitored for potential overdose concerns. We don’t know if she was aware of her father’s release or his arrest in January. Her suicide notes only tell us, from vague reporting by the police, that her family and her personal experience influenced her decision.

What we do know is she did not deserve to become an icon for a social justice movement determined to use her name and her face to push political outrage and policy demands. The girls she started a fight with did not deserve to be targeted with online hatred and vile accusations from the media, with even the President releasing a statement implicating them indirectly in a hate crime.

None of this should have happened. Her death should have remained with her family, allowing them peace to mourn, especially considering all they had gone through. The media took a deeply traumatized young girl and exploited her suffering for their own political purposes, lying, fabricating, and continuing to twist the story into a narrative they could use to push their own agenda.

The truth, however, is far more likely the result of a failed legal system, trauma, struggles with mental health, and a young girl far too overwhelmed to handle it all on her own, despite the brave persona she presented to the world. We must remember her life and all she survived in context over and above the last two days of her life. Anything else is exploitation.


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