KATY, Texas -- A 10-year-old boy in Texas took his own life, apparently due to relentless bullying, his mom says.
"I never thought he would go this far, never," Crystal Smith said. "I'm still in disbelief, and it's taking me a while to actually accept the fact that this happened."
Smith said her son, Kevin Reese, Jr., loved drawing and painting. The fifth grader at Robinson Elementary School had the biggest smile, and on the surface, he was a seemingly happy kid.
"Kevin was a goofy child," Smith said. "He's my little goof troop, I called him."
But on the inside, he had a deep-seated struggle his mom says was fueled by bullying at school.
"I just thought he was handling the situations," she said. "They wrote on his tablet to kill yourself. 'You don't belong here.' When it got physical back in November, he came home crying because he didn't fight back and one of the boys punched him several times coming from recess."
Then, on January 21, he and his 13-year-old sister got off the school bus. Their mom was out of town for work, and their stepfather was on his way home. But he wouldn't make it in time to stop the moment that would change the family forever.
"He just had enough," Smith said. "He just had enough, and he felt that he was backed into a corner."
Smith got a frantic call from Kevin's sister.
"She was just screaming on the phone, and I didn't understand," she said. "And she screamed, 'Kevin.'"
Reese had killed himself inside their Katy home.
"He hung himself in his closet," Smith said. "I told her to hang on with me, if you cut him down and while you're cutting him down, call 911."
Sadly, it was too late.
"Everything was not real," Smith said. "I was in a place where I just couldn't move."
Reese joins a growing list of children ending their lives.
"It's becoming unfortunately quite an epidemic, and it's not just here, it's all over," said Allie Sauls, a child counselor at Heritage Behavioral Health Consultants.
Sauls said she's seeing four main factors with her young patients: pressure at school, social media, problems at home, and bullying.
"It is rampant in schools, and I think that is because it is becoming so covert," Sauls said.
She said schools must have a safe system in place. After Reese's suicide, Smith said she reached out to the school.
"They told me they never found any bullying going on," she said.
Smith spends her days wishing her little boy was still here, and she's telling his story in the hopes of helping other families.
"Pay attention to your child," she said. "Don't assume that things are handled at the school. Stay on top of it until you see something come out on the end."
If you are thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.