Local News

More questions than answers in Goldsboro teen couple suicide

Posted January 14, 2014 5:47 p.m. EST
Updated January 14, 2014 8:42 p.m. EST

— A community mourned and searched for answers Tuesday following the deaths of a teenage couple that shot and killed themselves a day earlier while on a country road near their Goldsboro high school.

The pair appeared to be in love, from pictures on their social media accounts to when they walked the hallways at Rosewood High School.

They seemed inseparable, said Alex Brogden, a senior who played football with Garrison last year.

Garrison and Porter became an item at the end of last school year.

“They always seemed happy to me,” he said. “I never saw them mad at each other, or anything like that.”

But it was something that led Spenser Terry Garrison, 16, and Malia K. Porter, 15, to Capps Bridge Road near their school. Something that made Garrison put a handgun to his head and squeeze the trigger as he sat in his pick-up truck. Something that made Porter take the same gun and shoot herself outside the truck.

It was unclear whether the pair was in the vehicle together or if Porter went to the truck with a friend.

Investigators think that something may have sparked an argument between the couple, but no one knows for sure.

Garrison was pronounced dead at the scene. Porter was airlifted to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, where she died just after midnight on Tuesday.

A vigil

One by one, hundreds of students and community members gathered around a flagpole at Rosewood High on Monday night.

Tears flowed. Candles were lit. Hugs were exchanged.

“It’s real, and now we have to deal with it,” said Josh Overton, a local youth pastor who attended the vigil. “And the way you deal with it is being there for each other. And loving each other. And remembering these families.”

Monday's incident was a tragic reminder of the consequences that come with some decisions, said Daniel Baines, a coach and teacher at the school.

“The kids, you know, they’re very vulnerable, they’re very vulnerable to things that are going on around them,” he said after the vigil. “I just hope that kids can understand that the decisions they can make can be fatal.”

Coping with the loss

Teen suicides are not uncommon in North Carolina.

The state Division of Public Health reported 19 teen suicides in 2011-12. Among them, 15 were high school students.

There were also 392 attempted suicides.

Psychologists and counselors were at Rosewood on Tuesday to help students cope with the loss of two of their own.

The letters “R-I-P” were scrawled on vehicle windows in the school parking lot.

“Certainly there’s gonna be speculation, questions, why,” said Ken Derksen, Wayne County Schools spokesperson. “But at this time we’re just trying to work with students through their grieving process.”

Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders had some words of advice for teenagers.

"If there is something going on in your life and you need help, please find someone to talk to," he said in a written statement. "Find a family member, a friend, a trusted adult, but please find someone to talk to. The events which unfolded yesterday is not the answer."