Bram Willems

Name: Bram Willems.
Died: January 7, 2021.
Age at death: 22.
Cause of death: Homicide (Stabbing).
Location: Paihia, New Zealand.

As a ten-year-old, Bram moved from Belgium to Kerikeri, New Zealand. Awkward and unable to speak English, he was bullied at school; but as he grew older, he became tall and athletic, playing basketball and getting his dive instructor’s certificate.

Unfortunately, Bram was still socially vulnerable, and his friends often took advantage of him. They talked him into dropping a course he was taking and go on a trip with him instead, and they encouraged him to smoke cannabis, something which Bram eventually realized wasn’t good for him. When the trip went bad and his friends’ nature became obvious, Bram called his parents to take him home and cut ties with his friends.

At 22, Bram was getting his life back in order. He got a job as a beekeeper, stopped smoking, and bought a new car. One day, when Bram had been out driving his car, his mother began worrying for him because she saw when she accessed his bank account that several purchases had been made in his name at liquor stores. She called his cell phone and reached him once; but he was uncharacteristically quiet, and she could not reach him after that.

Bram’s body was found in a parking lot. He had been stabbed 13 times, and died when the knife pierced his heart. A teenage boy who had been with him at the time was arrested and convicted of murder.

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Sharon Lilley

Lilley, SharonName: Sharon Lilley.
Died: June 6, 2019.
Age at death: 29.
Cause of death: Ischemic bowel.
Location: Timaru, South Island, New Zealand.

Sharon was a musician and artist. She enjoyed both fishing and cooking the fish she caught. She was a Queen’s Guide (the highest available award for Girl Guides) and had her pilot’s license, flying solo at age 17.

Sharon was kind and caring, and would provide care for anyone, human or animal, who needed it. She had an intellectually disabled brother. She promised her parents that if they were ever unable to care for him, she would take over. But Sharon’s brother outlived her.

Sharon went to the emergency room three times with severe stomach pain. However, because her Asperger syndrome caused her to react differently to pain, doctors blamed her symptoms on her large body size.

In cases like Sharon’s with acute abdominal pain and a high heart rate, it would have been standard procedure to carefully eliminate all life-threatening conditions, provide a surgical review, request a CT scan with IV contrast, and address the cause of her high heart rate. However, none of this was done, and her pain was not addressed.

On her third visit to the emergency room, Sharon was finally given that CT scan, and doctors found that a large section of her small intestine lacked blood flow. In the operating room, surgeons were unable to repair the damage. Sharon died later in the ICU.

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Ruby Knox

Knox, RubyName: Ruby Knox.
Died: May 16, 2016.
Age at death: 20.
Cause of death: Homicide (Poisoned, smothered).
Location: Blenheim, New Zealand.

Weeks before the murder, Ruby Knox’s mother self-published a book about caring for her disabled daughter. In it, she said that she had “thoughts of ‘blowing up the hospital’ or of taking ‘serious violent action’.”

Her mother made good on those statements when she drugged and then smothered Ruby to death.

In her book, Ruby’s mother briefly mentions Ruby playing on the piano.

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Leon Jayet-Cole

Name: Leon Michael Le Fleming Jayet-Cole
Died: May 29, 2015
Age at death: 5
Cause of death: Fatal child abuse (Head injury)
Location: Papanui, New Zealand

Leon was a “beautiful, happy-spirited kid” who made his family laugh with the quirky things he said. He had learned to speak and learned to read when he was four, and at five years old was enrolled in school. His obituary calls him the “chief mischief maker of his brothers and sisters Lucas, Nadia, Anabelle, Fabian, and Liam; Giane, Daniel and James.” He loved pillow-fighting and riding his tricycle. He had to have his toast cut just right, or he wouldn’t eat it. His favorite movie was Frozen.

He hadn’t spoken until he was four, but then he started speaking, reading, and doing math all at once. Leon was a bookworm who would start reading the moment he woke. When they saw how fast he was learning, his family began calling him “Superman”. He loved school, which he attended for half-days, and Dr. Seuss was his favorite author. He had a brother who was also autistic.

Leon’s stepfather beat him to the point that he suffered a severe head injury, and his mother did not seek medical care for him when she saw he had been hurt. Leon survived on life support in the hospital for two days before he died. His organs were transplanted and have saved the lives of five people.

Leon’s stepfather has been charged with murder and his mother for failing to get medical treatment for him. Before Leon’s stepfather could be tried, he committed suicide. Charges against his mother were dropped.

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Otto Rapihana

Photo: Teenage boy with light-brown skin, brown eyes, and dark curly hair. One of his front teeth is chipped. He has the beginnings of a mustache.Name: Otto Rapihana
Died: November 9, 2012
Age at death: 20
Cause of death: Fire
Location: Glendene, New Zealand

At school, Otto was the student who always welcomed special guests. He loved the outdoors and planned to have a 21st birthday party on the beach.

Otto lived in an apartment with a caregiver who left him locked in a bathroom while she went to buy food. The house caught on fire (the cause of the fire has not been made public; the fire serviced called it “sensitive and complex”) and Otto died in the bathroom.

Otto is mourned by two siblings and his special education classmates. His housemate was badly burned but survived the fire.

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