Sad Details About The College Freshman Who Committed Suicide Whose Priest Condemned His Death At His Funeral

Photo: Family photo via CNN
Maison Hullibarger Death Update Details Michigan Teen Suicide Priest Don LaCuesta

A Michigan family grieving the loss of their teenage son was left shaken after the priest they sought solace in condemned the teen's death and referenced suicide multiple times, despite being asked to stop.

Rev. Don LaCuesta took it upon himself to lecture the mourning guests at Maison Hullibarger's Dec. 8 funeral about taking one's own life and repeatedly mentioned the 18-year-old's suicide.

"We wanted him to celebrate how Maison lived, not how he died," Maison's mother told Detroit Free Press.

Instead, the priest stood in front of the boy's family and friends and said words so hurtful the Archdiocese of Detroit issued an apology to the Hullibarger family.

"We understand that an unbearable situation was made even more difficult, and we are sorry," the statement reads, adding that LaCuesta will not be serving at funerals for the foreseeable future.

"Not one word out of his mouth was about what we asked and what we talked about," Jeff said. "It was unprofessional and unacceptable."

The family wanted to remember Maison, who was a freshman at the University of Toledo, for his kindness and focus on celebrating his life but endured the opposite.

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"It was his time to tell everybody what he thought of suicide, (and) we couldn't believe what he was saying," Maison's father said. “He was up there condemning our son, pretty much calling him a sinner. He wondered if he had repented enough to make it to heaven. He said 'suicide' upwards of six times."

At one point, Maison's father, Jeff Hullibarger, walked up to the pulpit and begged, "Father, please stop," but LaCuesta did not listen and continued to belittle their son's death.

"He didn't miss a beat. He kept going," Jeff told CNN. "He said that word [suicide] another handful of times. It made the worst day of our lives more worse."

Family photo via Detroit Free Press

Maison's father said that multiple people left the service in tears as LaCuesta spoke.

"People told me there was almost a smirk on his face," Jeff told the Detroit Free Press.

The Hullibargers had prepared speeches and wanted time at the end of the service for others to share kind words about Maison, but LaCuesta tried to end the ceremony without giving time to do so. The funeral director had to step in so the family could eulogize their son.

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Although LaCuesta's ability to perform funeral services was revoked, the Hullibargers want him removed from his post entirely.

"We just don't feel that the consequences are where they need to be right now," Jeff told CNN. "We asked him [the archbishop] to remove the priest from the priesthood. We're wondering how they think that sending him to the classroom — how that's going to teach him empathy and to have some discretion. How do you teach somebody that?"

GoFundMe page set up for the family's funeral expenses raised over $22,000 and although the family is very grateful, their only goal is to prevent the priest from hurting others in the way he hurt them.

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Adding to the family's distress, a football coach who allegedly bullied Maison in high school showed up to the funeral uninvited. The Hullibargers specifically requested Bedford’s Jeff Wood not attend the service but he did anyway.

“[Mr. Wood] didn’t treat him well in life,” Maison's mother told the Toledo Blade. “Why would he be there when he’s not with us? We knew [Maison] did not want him there. He would not want him there.”

He was immediately told leave and was later dismissed from his position as coach as a result, according to Bedford Schools superintendent Carl Shultz.

"Wood is no longer affiliated in any way with the Bedford football program," Shultz confirmed Monday. "The district holds all of its staff to the highest standards of professionalism, as personal and professional integrity is the core of our service to our community. The district recently received allegations that those standards may not have been met by the coach. Therefore, we are in the process of thoroughly investigating those allegations. The district will take appropriate, firm, corrective action if the allegations are substantiated. To protect the rights of all involved parties, I cannot offer further comment regarding ongoing personnel matters."

The family does not want any of the negative events at Maison's funeral to overshadow the memory of him.

"Maison is a great person. He's a very caring person," Linda said. "We had numerous students come up to us and tell us how in their time of need he was there for them. ... He was just an unbelievable son."

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Sarah Gangraw writes about all things news, entertainment and crime. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.