Twenty-year-old Charles Mahoney IV wrote a suicide letter, put it on the dresser in his bedroom in a fraternity house, and then, using his dog’s leash, put one end over the door and ended his life by hanging himself on Feb. 11, 2002.

He was a junior at Allegheny College.

“It is now time to end my life,” he wrote, apologizing to his parents, telling them “it’s not your fault by no means.” The letter told them he was taking his life because he recognized he wasn’t “going to get better” and he loved them and didn’t want them to “suffer any more on my account.”

Diagnosed with severe depression and at “high risk for suicide,” Mahoney had been advised by his college counselor, Jacqueline Kondrot, to see another psychiatrist. “I made her cry,” he wrote. He asked those he was leaving behind to take care of his dog, Gracie, and told his siblings “I am sorry you hated me so much.”

“I am tired, tired, tired,” he wrote, adding, “Please pray God has mercy on my selfish soul.” He also indicated that he wanted no funeral.

It was only after their son died that Deborah and Charles Mahoney III learned he had been diagnosed at high risk for suicide.

They filed a multimillion-dollar civil suit, seeking financial damages for the loss of their son, including future earnings he would have made had he not died. In opening statements Tuesday in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas, William Phillips, the attorney representing the Washington County couple, said an economist will testify that had the younger Mahoney lived he could have earned between more than $1.789 million (for lifetime earnings by a college graduate) and $7.071 million, had he completed plans to become an attorney.

That figure doesn’t include any other damages for pain and suffering the family experienced.

“How could this have happened?” Williams asked, telling the jury of six men and six women that evidence will show “Jacqueline Kondrot should have recognized the warning signs.”

The malpractice suit involves whether Kondrot, an employee of Allegheny College; and another defendant, Dr. Gregory Richards, to whom Kondrot referred Mahoney, should have notified his parents or sought involuntary hospitalization for him.

Williams told jurors they will hear excuses that the two were legally not permitted to notify the parents because of confidentiality rules. However, Williams claims the younger Mahoney had signed an agreement giving Kondrot and Richards permission to notify his parents. He also said mental health professionals have the ability to notify parents if the patient is in imminent danger to himself or to others.

In opening statements on behalf of Allegheny and Kondrot, attorney Kerry Kearney told jurors that Mahoney hadn’t signed permission to notify his parents, but that his signature only acknowledged a privacy policy at the college counseling center.

She said the case is about a young man who had a lot of mental health issues and had been in counseling for two and one-half years. She noted that in August 2000, when Mahoney was experiencing some problems, he agreed to allow Kondrot to call his parents, which she did and he agreed to voluntary hospitalization.

Noting 17 percent of college students “have suicidal thoughts,” Kearney said a national foundation named after a student who had committed suicide set up guidelines for the number of counselors a college should have. It is one per 1,800 students. She said Allegheny has three counselors for its 1,800 students at no cost to the student 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and one psychiatrist.

College officials have found no records of any previous suicide of an Allegheny student back to the 1970s, as far back as their records go.

She said four doors were available to help Mahoney, but “three were closed.” One door was for involuntary hospitalization, but that requires the subject to have made an threat or take a step toward suicide, which she said Mahoney did not do. Second was to notify his parents, which patient confidentiality rules don’t permit without permission. Third was to enforce an involuntary leave from school. “He did not live on campus,” she said, noting that too was out.

Kondrot did the only thing she could, Kearney said: She tried to work with him to help himself, spending many hours, including 1.7 hours with him the day he took his life. He told her about plans for the future and promised to return the next day.

“Ultimately Chuck made the decision,” Kearney said. “He made the decision not to tell her he planned to take his own life.”

She also noted the higher earnings figure was based solely on assumptions Mahoney would have been accepted at law school, was employed making $100,000 a year right out of college, and worked in a stressful job for 42 years.

Joel Snavely, attorney for Richards, said his client saw Mahoney only twice — once 10 days before he committed suicide and once five days before. He noted Richards also was bound by confidentiality rules and called Mahoney’s death a “tragedy,” but noted, “Mr. Mahoney chose to take his own life.”

Deborah Mahoney testified briefly before court recessed for the day Tuesday and will be back on the stand when court reconvenes today.

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