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Dad Blames School Play in Suicide

May 9, 2001

SWANZEY, N.H. (AP) _ The father of a student who killed himself 19 months after his older brother did said Wednesday that he regrets not stopping the younger teen from taking the lead role in a school play about suicide.

``It was kind of a chilling idea to do the play, clearly. Anybody might have looked at it twice,″ David Kochman said in a telephone interview. ``The thought was that it would be cathartic thing, that he could act out some of his feelings.″

Kochman, 45, found his son’s body at home early Sunday. Gregory was 17, the same age his brother Eric had been when he committed suicide in 1999.

Gregory had the lead in ``Ordinary People,″ a play about a suicidal teen-ager racked with guilt over the death of his older brother in an accident. The school production, which had been scheduled to open Wednesday, was canceled.

School officials say they don’t think the play contributed directly to Gregory’s death, and his father agrees.

``I don’t want there to be any controversy or bitterness. I think everybody tried to do the right thing. I don’t think any blame should be placed anywhere. I just want people to remember Greg and Eric as the people they were,″ he said.

Kochman, an insurance company audit supervisor, took a softer tone than he did in an interview with The Boston Globe the day before.

``When I heard about the play, I thought it was a sick joke,″ he told the Globe. ``I couldn’t believe it. I blame myself for not stopping it outright.″

Kochman said Gregory’s therapist was asked about the role and ``thought it was OK.″

``Greg was a lot like me, he’s someone that doesn’t always express himself,″ Kochman said Wednesday. ``We thought maybe this would be an opportunity to express something that would be hard to do otherwise.″

Kochman said he could have stopped the play at any time.

``If I had picked the phone up and called the administration or the drama director, they would have stopped the play,″ he said. ``I don’t want to put that kind of guilt or blame on anybody, because I don’t feel it.″

Gregory was ranked third in his class academically and was on the track and soccer teams at Monadnock Regional Junior-Senior High School. He had been accepted for a summer advanced studies program and had applied to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Kochman said he is pondering everything that might have contributed to Gregory’s death. About a month ago, he and his son discussed that Gregory had been alive longer than his older brother had been.

``If you look at the number of days each was on Earth, they almost lived the same numbers of days: 17 years, two months and X number of days,″ he said.

He said Gregory had discussed the milestone with his therapist.

Like Eric, Gregory shot himself at home with a family-owned gun. David Kochman said the gun Gregory used was locked up and had a trigger lock. There was no ammunition in the house. He said he was the only one who knew the combination to the trigger lock.

``It kinds of spooks me out to think of it _ he must have gone through hundreds or thousands of numbers to try to get the right combination,″ he said. ``That’s all I can think of, because I never wrote the combination down.″

The boys lived with their father after the parents divorced in 1997. Gregory had been hospitalized twice since Eric’s suicide for his own protection and was closely watched at school.

Kochman told the Globe the brothers were ``were unbelievably close. They lifted weights together, they played soccer together, they worked together _ they were best friends in addition to being brothers, and at the time I was very proud of that. But now it’s turned into a curse.″

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