Channing Smith, a 16-year-old junior from Coffee County, shot himself on September 29 after the young man and a young woman shared the messages on Instagram and Snapchat. Smith's brother Joshua reached out to Channing's friends on Facebook after learning of his death and heard the story of how the two people in question shared the conversations.
"They did it to just completely humiliate and embarrass my brother,” Smith told the outlet. “Being in a small, rural town in the middle of Tennessee, you can imagine being the laughing stock and having to go to school Monday morning. He couldn't face the humiliation that was waiting on him when he got to school on Monday, so he shot and killed himself.”
Joshua added that he's contacted the young woman who reportedly shared that Joshua told her he was going to end his life. He said that the district attorney in Coffee County has already decided not to pursue charges against the duo.
“I was told by the lead investigator in Coffee County that he was pushing to have the kids charged criminally and the District Attorney’s office has decided that they did not want to pursue it," Joshua said.
District Attorney Craig Northcutt previously came under fire in 2018 for saying at a religious conference that he wouldn't prosecute domestic abuse cases in same-sex marriages because he does not believe in them. However, he denied that he's come to a decision about prosecuting the case in a statement shared with the New York Times.
I, like the rest of the community, am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of the young life of Channing Smith,” Northcott said. “My office has encouraged, cooperated in and supported the investigation into the events leading to this death."
Clearly feeling that the situation might have gone differently had Channing felt he could share his situation, Joshua urged parents to make their children feel that they can come to them with any problem.
“No matter what, make sure your kids know that they're the number one priority in your life and that nothing, no choice, nothing that they could do could ever separate them from your love," he said. "This way there's not as much shame and guilt on anything going on in the kid’s life that they would hesitate to come talk to you about."
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.