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Henning's mother struggles with answers

Cary Ashby • Updated Nov 14, 2019 at 4:24 PM

Now that authorities said they expect to rule her son’s death a suicide, Bonnie Jackson said she doesn’t know what to think.

“None of it makes sense,” added the Norwalk woman, who said she’s not aware of her son having suicidal thoughts or mental health issues. “I question everything in my mind.”

The body of her 17-year-old son, Damian G. Henning, was found in the 500 block of Boers-Boyer Way about 2:24 p.m. Monday when the Toledo Police Department responded to the scene. Authorities also recovered the yellow Ford Mustang driven by Henning in a nearby parking lot.

Dr. Diane Scala-Barnett, Lucas County coroner, confirmed in a prepared statement that the frozen body discovered early Monday on the river bank underneath the Anthony Wayne Bridge was Henning’s. 

“His autopsy shows extensive internal blunt-force injuries. The findings, coupled with the scene investigation and events occurring earlier in the day, all point to Mr. Henning jumping from the high-level bridge, landing on the ground and not in the water. The death will be ruled a suicide once the toxicology is complete,” Scala-Barnett said.

Jackson said the coroner told her Henning had a broken neck and spinal cord injuries and there were abrasions on her son’s hands. At first, Scala-Barnett didn’t think “he was a jumper” until she discovered the internal injuries. Jackson said she wonders if the hand abrasions came from her son holding onto the rail of the bridge, maybe as he reconsidered jumping or letting go.

“I (still) don’t know why he would go to Toledo. My dad worked right there,” added Jackson, whose father worked from a nearby Norfolk Southern Railway office before he retired. “He’s familiar with the bridge.”

The mother would take her son to the office so he could spend weekends with his grandfather.

Henning was last seen Sunday afternoon at Kalahari in Perkins Township. He worked at the resort as a deep-water lifeguard for nearly three months.

The teen and his mother had a three-minute phone call before he was seen leaving the parking lot in the Mustang at 2:21 p.m. Jackson said she had called him upset about finding a vape pen in his bedroom and yelled at him, told him he “was grounded for life” and hung up on him.

“I yelled at him and that’s why he left in the first place,” said the mother, who believes she may have overreacted. “He did this because of me. He flipped out on me.” 

Henning was scheduled to start another Kalahari shift at 4:15 p.m. His mother said nobody called to say her son “was a no-show.”

Jackson said there are several things about the situation that are confusing or don’t make sense.

“He didn’t have his shoes on,” she added, which makes her wonder why her son would walk barefooted or in socks from the car to jump off the bridge.

Also, Jackson said police discovered Henning’s “slip-ons” — something he routinely had while working at Kalahari — in the back seat of the Mustang. As a lifeguard, her son would wear slip-on shoes so he could dive into the pool at a moment’s notice, she said, but he also would bring shoes with him to work.

Another element that bothered Jackson is the driver’s seat was “moved really far up.” She said a police officer said her son “must have been a short one” or liked to “hug” the steering wheel. However, Jackson, who is 5 feet 4 inches tall, said she always had to adjust the seat in the Mustang to drive it after her 5-foot, 10-inch tall son had been driving.

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