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Pro Wrestling Implicated In Death Of a Nine Year Old

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Published On: July 24, 2001          Updated On: April 13, 2002
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

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Carolina Mother Blames TV Wrestling Shows in Son's Death

The Associated Press reported on July 24, 2001 that the mother of a 9-year old boy who was tossed on his head by a teen-ager and died said Tuesday she tried to get her son to watch educational shows on television instead of pro wrestling.

Julie Garland is the mother of Derek Garland, who died July 17 after grappling with 16-year-old Jason Crabb.

"It was a wrestling move that they seen on television. I think television violence is to blame for a lot of it," Garland said on CBS' "The Early Show." "Derek, he liked to watch it. I just didn't - well, it had a lot of vulgarity and violence and I tried to encourage him to watch educational television."

Derek had been left alone with Crabb, whose father is Julie Garland's fiance. Crabb told sheriff's deputies that Derek jumped off a bed and onto his back. Crabb, who weighs about 225 pounds, flipped the 65-pound boy over his back. Derek died later that night at Wilkes Regional Medical Center.

An autopsy showed that Derek suffered head and neck injuries.

Julie Garland said Derek was intimidated by the older boy.

"I'll never forget the look in his eyes that day when I left. And I don't think I'll ever be able to stop blaming myself," she said. "If I had taken him with me that day, I'd still have my baby."

The victim's father, Dwight Garland, who is separated from Julie Garland, said he had warned Derek not to imitate the wrestling he saw on television.

"I had warned him every time that he watched wrestling on TV, I made sure he knew," he said on NBC's "Today" show. "I said 'Derek, this is fake. If you try this, you will get hurt. Those people get hurt sometimes, and you will get seriously hurt if you try it.'"

World Wrestling Federation spokesman Gary Davis cautioned against blaming pro wrestling in Derek's death, as happened in the Florida murder trial of Lionel Tate.

Tate, 14, was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of a 6-year-old girl. He said he was imitating the body-slamming of professional wrestlers.

Garland said on MSNBC that televised wrestling alone is not to blame.

"A lot of this stuff parents let the kids watch these days is violence," he said.

Wilkes County Sheriff Dane Mastin told the Winston-Salem Journal that he asked the State Bureau of Investigation for help investigating Derek's death.

No charges are expected until after the investigation, Mastin said.

"We're trying to fast-track this investigation so that we can make a determination as quickly as possible," he said.

Derek's mother said charging Jason would not help her family.

"I think Jason would need now is psychological support, some type of help on that line," she said. "I don't think I could deal with a court trial."

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