WITHOUT WARNING: Parents share heartache of twin son’s suicide

WITHOUT WARNING: Parents share heartache of twin son’s suicide
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 4:57 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - September 27, 2021 was like any typical Monday for the Sumrell family. There was nothing unusual for the family of four.

“It was just a very normal day,” Missy Sumrell said.

Missy and Jeff Sumrell began their workday from home. Their 16-year-old twins, Parker and Peyton, left for school early that morning. Both honor students, Peyton would leave Laney High early to got to her part time job. Parker, who split his day between high school and early college, came home between classes to get something to eat and work on a project.

“He walked in the door, grab the toaster, made a bagel,” Missy said. “He went upstairs. He was working on an Eagle Scout spreadsheet.”

Jeff, who worked from home that day, had run out. When he got back, Parker was there.

“He came out and saw that I had some equipment in the car and without prompting, he just went and got it and put it away for me and all,” Jeff said.

It was typical of Parker, who was just weeks away from becoming an Eagle Scout -- the highest honor given to a boy scout.

“We had several conversations that morning just like we always did,” Missy recalled.

Missy remembers yelling up to his room to remind him not to be late to his noon class at Cape Fear Community College.

“He goes, ’I’m coming mom. I’m just getting my things together.’”

It was just a few minutes after that Jeff, who was also upstairs, heard something.

“I thought our overloaded master closet had broken,” Jeff said.

When he checked and the closet was fine -- he thought Parker might have fallen.

“So I walked across the hall to his bedroom and his door was closed which is not unusual but when I reached for it -- it was locked.”

Jeff knew at that point something was wrong. He got in the room and that’s when he saw his son with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“I went into emergency mode -- called Missy and told her to call 911 and I started doing CPR and holding him,” Jeff recalled in tears.

Parker still had a pulse but he died shortly after the paramedics got to the house. By then, the house was full of people including first responders and friends. With a sheriff’s escort, Jeff and Missy rushed to Peyton’s job to break the tragic news.

The Sumrell’s are still working to get past the pain. Jeff hasn’t been back in Parker’s room since that day two years ago.

“My goal is to get past that but as I’ve been told, everybody deals with a trauma like this in their own way,” Jeff said.

Like many families across America, the Sumrell’s had guns for protection and hunting. They never thought their son would use one to end his life. That’s a big part of their heartache -- not knowing why. They say there were absolutely no warning signs.

“He was a happy kid all the time. He was doing everything right. He was a good student. He was a good scout -- an Eagle Scout. He was active in sports,” said Jeff.

Two weeks before Parker took his own life, he was helping to build a pavilion behind his church -- Wrightsboro United Methodist. While the pavilion was his idea, it was part of an assignment in order to become an Eagle Scout.

His troop finished the project that now bears his name.

“He wanted to build this structure to give back to the church that supported his scouting career for 11 years,” Jeff said.

Several months after Parker passed, he was awarded his Eagle Scout badge -- his parents receiving the badge. Their mission is to keep Parker’s memory alive

“There’s not a day that we don’t speak Parker’s name,” Missy said. “We talk to him every day and we just hope that we can make him proud with what we’re doing.”

Peyton, Parker’s twin, is now in college and doing well. Missy and Jeff have resumed their passion -- volunteering in the community. They’re also involved in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Their mission is to stop this heartache from happening to others.

“I never want anyone else to feel the way that we have felt. It is a pain that is so unimaginable. And if we tell our story and it helps anyone that’s what this is about for us.”