When a father was told he owed $17,000 in child support, he knew of only one response. The man, 45-year-old Ian Sandywell, could not handle the stress of owing so much money in back pay for child support. So when the judge told him that he had no choice but to pay, Ian sent his 22-year-old son Ben a text message that made it clear what he was going to do.
Ian wrote, “Delete me out of your life, please. I’m going to hang myself.”
Hours later, Ian’s wife, Jo-ann Balsamo, came home from work. She walked into their home only to find that Ian was a man of his word. He did exactly as he told his son, Ian, he would do. She found his dead body hanging in the garage.
Balsamo had heard from Ian a few hours before she found him. He had called her and asked about the child support payments and was clearly distressed by them.
“He was upset,” his wife remembers. “He was crying. He said he was concerned about the amount of money they wanted on a monthly basis, which was $800. It was stressful for him.”
Although she knew the money matters bothered her husband, she was still shocked to come home and find him hanging from the rafters.
“I was surprised how upset he was. We had letters before, and he was going to go through the appeals process. By the end of the conversation, he had calmed down, and we said goodbye normally.”
The letter arrived in the mail informing Ian that he owed thousands in child support payments. The fated letter came from the Child Support Agency and shook Ian to his core. He did not have the kind of money they demanded. He also had no idea how he could ever afford it.
Officials are investigating Ian’s death. During that investigation, the police learned that Ian also contacted his parents to discuss the child support issue. But the most heartbreaking evidence came between the text messages he exchanged with his adult son on the day he took his own life.
The messages show Ian’s thread unraveling. There were about forty messages exchanged between father and son. The last of which read, “I’m sorry Ben. I love you.”
After he took his life and Balsamo found his body, she called 911. Emergency responders arrived on the scene and hurried out to see if they could help. But it was too late. They had no way of reviving Ian as he had taken his life long before his wife was able to return home from work.
Investigators ordered an autopsy. The results confirmed the evidence. But they also found that he had been drinking. Ian had a blood alcohol level twice the limit for driving. Because he had fueled himself with drink, it made it easier for him to commit the final act of his life.
Money can be a source of stress. And while it might be difficult for people to understand from the outside, the $17,000 drove Ian to the edge.