April 8, 2013

What Kitty McGuire left behind: happy memories, many questions

The 13-year-old's family points to reports of bullying and her grief over a beloved uncle's suicide, but struggle to understand why she took her life.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

TROY - When 13-year-old Kitty McGuire killed herself two weeks ago, some people blamed bullying.

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Aunts and uncles of Kitty McGuire talk about their 13-year-old niece, who took her life last month in Troy. From left, Bobbi Pelletier and Michael McGuire join Hannah and Timothy McGuire at the couple's home in Bangor. They hope that when police obtain access to Kitty's messages on her iPod, it may yield some answer to the mystery of what triggered her suicide.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Kitty McGuire

Photo McGuire family

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Carrie Horne, assistant director of the Maine division of National Alliance on Mental Illness, a nonprofit agency, said suicide very rarely comes without some sort of warning.

"Most of the time, 90 percent of the time, people show signs of suicide before they are going to kill themselves," Horne said.

Horne said there are imminent signs to watch for:

Making threats, even vague threats, such as "I wish I was dead" or "What's the point of living?"

Looking for ways to carry out a suicide plan, such as looking for a firearm or rope.

Writing about death, texting about death or suicide or drawing pictures of suicide.

Other signs include moodiness, sadness, irritability, anger, withdrawing from friends and family, changes in sleep patterns such as insomnia or sleeping too much, feeling hopeless or feeling trapped.

Horne said people who feel suicidal or are worried about a loved one should call the state mental health crisis number, 1-888-568-1112.

-- From staff reports

Family members said Kitty was teased at school for wearing all black, and for questioning her sexual identity. Friends on Facebook assert she was targeted by other students. Her family staged an anti-bullying protest in front of her school, challenging administrators to do more to stop bullying.

But as more details have emerged about Kitty McGuire, the idea that bullying led to her suicide may be too simple an explanation.

There were signs Kitty was having trouble dealing with the suicide a year earlier of a much loved uncle. For instance, she took to wearing his clothes.

But her family members all agree that Kitty showed few, if any, signs of being suicidal.

The school, which has a defined anti-bullying policy, maintains it received no reports that Kitty was bullied. She had many friends at Mount View Middle School in Thorndike. She was happy at home. She had never tried drugs. Her grades were improving.

Kitty, born Harley-Donna Virginia McGuire but known to everyone by her nickname, left no note or indication why she would want to take her life.

Just a few hours before, she had been sharing jokes with her grandfather.

The way she killed herself could have been a clue to what she felt but didn't show: Kitty hanged herself in her bedroom, the same way her beloved uncle, 20-year-old Edward McGuire, killed himself on April 11, 2012.

The two both lived in her grandparents' home on Ward Hill Road. He treated Kitty like a little sister and best friend and his suicide devastated her.

"She was extremely upset by his death. She went to the extent of imitating him and wearing his clothes," said her grandfather, Fred McGuire.

But Fred McGuire said he doesn't think Edward's death is the reason she killed herself. Everything he's heard since Kitty's death is that other students were cruel to her, and he's convinced that's the real reason. Her other family members agree.

"She was really sad about (Edward's death)," said another uncle, Timothy McGuire. "But I don't think that's why she took her life." 


Kitty's parents, Ruby-Dale McGuire and Richard Shaw, gave her up when she was just an infant. Her mother lives in Bangor. Her father lives in Old Town. Neither was a regular part of her life.

Instead, Kitty was brought up by her grandparents, Fred and Donna McGuire, along with her older brother, Richard "Neeper" McGuire, at the end of a long road in rural Troy.

"Donna and I changed Kitty's first diaper," Fred said. "Within 10 days, we had Kitty. We had Kitty before she took her first steps. Since she was born, she was ours."

The McGuires raised Kitty and Richard side by side with their own sons, Timothy, 27; Michael, 24; and Edward.

Timothy's high school sweetheart Hannah, whom he married three years ago, moved in with them. Michael, who is now a corporal in the Marine Corps, married as a teenager, and his wife, Bobbi Pelletier, spent much of her youth there, too.

"Circumstances just made it so Fred and Donna were the legal guardians," Bobbi said. "We all grew up together. We all went to school together. It didn't matter the legal technicalities. We were a family."

Troy is a small farming community in northern Waldo County, halfway between Bangor and Waterville. With a population of just over 1,000 people, the town is bisected by Route 202 and has no commercial or residential concentration.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Michael McGuire, one of Kitty’s uncles, remembers the messages she would write to him on his bathroom mirror to cheer him up. She also delighted in playing pranks on him.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Bobbi Pelletier, an aunt of Kitty McGuire, says, “She was so sweet, she’d curl up on the couch with us.” She says Kitty, having just turned 13, was trying to find herself.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Kitty McGuire holds the bouquet she caught at the wedding of Timothy and Hannah McGuire three years ago. She was always the one who caught wedding bouquets, the couple said.

Family photo

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Heather Perry


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