On August 28, an 8-year-old biracial boy was playing with a group of teenagers in the small town of Claremont, New Hampshire. Soon, however, their games took a dangerous turn. Somehow, the boy—who is half black—wound up with a rope around his neck, hanging from a tree. He was rushed to the hospital. That same day, the boy’s mother posted photographs of his swollen neck on Facebook, and soon the story story went viral.
The boy’s family alleges the hanging was a deliberate, racist act, and that one 13-year-old boy—who is white—was the instigator. The older boys, they allege, left the 8-year-old hanging and ran away, and the police, they claim, did not initially take the investigation seriously.
In an exclusive interview, with Newsweek, which has been edited for brevity, the teenage boy’s parents, Rhianna Larkin, 33 and Eric Sullivan, 32, tell their side of the story. In a tearful exchange, Larkin says what happened was a tragic accident, not a racially-motivated crime—and that since it occurred, people have threatened not only their lives, but the lives of their children.
Can you tell me what happened on August 28?
Larkin: Around 10:00am, the teens involved [including the 8-year-old boy who was hanged] came to my house and said to my son, “Where have you been? We’ve been waiting at the park for hours”. [My son] got his shoes on and off they went. My stipulation was that they either play at my house or Eric’s. [The two are not married, no longer date, and live about a mile from one another].
Eric, they wound up at your house. How did you find out what happened?
Sullivan: [Around 5:00pm] The neighbor gave a knock on the door and told me. He said some kid tied a rope around his neck playing dumbly and fell off the picnic table. [My son] said [the other boy] spun around twice and then the rope came undone. I guess it was like ten seconds. From what [my son] said, it was quick.
The 8-year-old’s family says your son and the other teenage boys put the rope around their necks then encouraged the younger boy to do the same. When he did so, they say your son pushed him off the picnic table. Have you asked your son about this?
Larkin: Of course we have, we’ve asked him a hundred thousand times. Every child that was there fully admitted that they put the rope around their own neck, and… they all said, “I was being dumb, I know it was stupid.” That’s what my son…