Florida deputies Clayton Osteen and Victoria Pacheco revealed no outward signs of the torment that led them to take their own lives within days of each other, authorities revealed on Friday.
The tragic deaths of the couple – who left their weeks-old baby son Jayce orphaned – were a personal ‘gut punch’ to their peers and remain a mystery, Sheriff Ken Mascara said during a press conference in Fort Pierce.
The St. Lucie County’s sheriff revealed the two young outstanding officers had thorough psychological evaluations before they were finally selected for their demanding roles.
Deep scrutiny of his department’s work and welfare procedures have thrown no new light on the mental health tragedy, but the county’s top law enforcement officer insisted there was nothing his office could have done differently to prevent the deaths.
Family and friends are reeling from the loss are expressing shock at Osteen and Pacheco’s choice to end their lives, saying they were as happy as ever after welcoming their new baby and that the reason behind the drastic actions are unknown
The St. Lucie Sheriff’s Office is rallying to raise money and day to day basics to help raise baby Jayce, (pictured) including accepting essentials like diapers, wipes, gift cards to baby stores and food stores
The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office on Friday answered questions about the recent deaths of officers Clayton Osteen and Victoria Pacheco, who both died by suicide within days of each other
Former U.S. Marine Osteen, 24, attempted suicide late New Year’s Eve and died two days later in hospital – while grief-stricken Pacheco, 23, killed herself on January 4.
The new parents were laid to rest side-by-side in American flag-covered caskets Saturday at a heart-breaking funeral attended by family, friends and fellow officers of St. Lucie Sheriff’s Department, who saluted as their coffins passed.
Sheriff Mascara revealed he had seen four officers die in his 22 years in the top job but admitted ‘the two recent losses of Deputy Osteen and Pacheco, they were probably the most impactful to me.’
‘Out of all of them they all had their own unique impact on me, but these two were a gut punch – and it was because of the manner,’ he added.
He said he immediately questioned himself when the tragedies occurred.
‘The first thought when I received the call that it was a suicide, was – did I miss something?’ he said.
‘Did our agency miss something? Did we not have the right safeguards in place to prevent something like this from happening?
‘And after reviewing the facts of this tragic incident, after reviewing all of our policies, all of our protocols, I can definitely tell you that we did not miss anything.
‘No matter what we had in place, things that we could have done, this was something that happened that none of us could have prevented. I am 100 per cent sure of that.’
Deputy Clayton Osteen, attempted suicide on New Year’s Eve and was later taken to the hospital where he was taken off life support two days later. Victoria Pacheco took her own life on January 4
The young couple had just welcomed their first child together, a boy, in mid-November. Osteen and Pacheco are pictured during her baby shower in September
The couple was laid to rest side-by-side on Saturday, January 8 after they both took their own lives within days of each other, leaving their six-week-old son orphaned
Sheriff Mascara said both officers were outstanding candidates for the job while studying at nearby Indian River State College law enforcement academy at different times.
They were talent spotted by senior St. Lucie officers – but still had to go through extensive suitability testing.
‘We have a situation where many of our upper leadership in the sheriff’s office also teach at the law enforcement academy,’ he said.
‘What this allows us to do is identify really sharp people in our law enforcement academy. And both of these individual were identified early as two special people.’
But he added: ‘Notwithstanding what we thought of either one of them in the law enforcement academy, our policies and procedures have to do a very thorough background investigation on each one of these individuals before they come to work here.
‘That includes physical tests, that includes medical tests and most importantly that includes a psychological test.
‘A psychological test on both of these individuals revealed that they were fully compatible and acceptable to enter a law enforcement profession.
‘There were no doubts, no concerns whatsoever.’
Baby Jayce was born on November 22 and was only six weeks old at the time of his parent’s death
Jayce Osteen has been left orphaned after his mom and dad, who were both sheriff’s deputies, took their own lives
Osteen started as a deputy in November 2019 after four years in the military, where he served in a non-combat role in Korea. Pacheco began in February 2020.
They ‘were a beautiful couple together’, added the sheriff.
‘When you saw them, there was just something special about them. They first developed a work relationship which then blossomed into a romantic relationship. They moved in together first in Port St. Lucie and then moved to their current residence in Lakewood Park.
‘And it was in the beginning of 2021 that Victoria became pregnant and I can tell you that there was one proud doting, soon-to-be father and that was Clayton.’
Mascara said both were thrilled to be starting a family – and he did not believe the stress of a newborn was a factor in the tragedy.
The pair had worked at the department for over a year together with Osteen starting in 2019 and Pacheco in 2020
‘I can tell you that both of them were excited and looking forward to the birth of this baby boy,’ he continued. ‘Jayce was born November 21, 2021, and they were both tickled to start a family.
‘There has been some presumption that the baby caused stress. Those of us who have children, babies do cause stress. There’s change in sleep patterns, every day activities, changes in your responsibilities. But we feel, and all of their friends and family feel, there was just normal stress that people have.
‘There was nothing added that could have led to the decision of suicide.’
In the days after Pacheco’s suicide, Osteen’s brother Zack, a fellow St. Lucie County deputy gained an order giving him temporary custody of Jayce.
‘An emergency court order hearing took place that week and recognized Clayton’s brother as Jayce’s guardian for at least a year,’ said Mascara.
The married brother has a girl of 11 and a two-year-old son. ‘Jayce is in a loving home with two cousins. We foresee nothing but the best for Jayce in that environment,’ he added.
A gofundme.com page started by a family friend to raise money for Jayce is currently at $122,000.
Meanwhile the sheriff’s department is also raising money and donations for the child, with its total at $20,000. The department has been swamped with diapers, baby formula, food and other items.
The sheriff’s office posted photos of the somber service to their Facebook page, along with a heartfelt message by Sheriff Ken Mascara: ‘Today we say goodbye to our brother and sister, Deputy Clayton Osteen and Deputy Victoria Pacheco. May you rest in peace’
Donations and tributes have since piled in for Baby Jayce, including a GoFundMe account that has since raised over $112,000 as of Monday morning
There is also a move to give free legal help to make the adoption of Jayce permanent, said the sheriff.
‘The outpouring of support from around the world has been overwhelming and we continue to want people to support Jayce,’ he added.
‘The tragic loss of Deputy Osteen and Deputy Pacheco occurred off duty. It is a private family matter and because of restrictions with HIPAA (the federal law that protects patient health information) there is a tremendous amount of information that we cannot share.’
Osteen is the grandson of St. Lucie’s eighth sheriff and the nephew of the county’s ninth, said Mascara. ‘So immediately we knew he’s got some good DNA.
‘And in his short time with us he excelled in everything he did. He was deputy of the quarter and deputy of the year in his first year. He was on out SWAT team and an all-round excellent deputy.
‘Deputy Pacheco was just as talented, receiving a life-saving award in 2021 and a unit citation in 2021.’
The gofundme page that has raised $122,000 was started by family friend Kelly Ridle. She wrote when it launched: ‘The families of Clayton and Victoria are so grateful for all prayers and support received. All donations will be used for enriching Jayce’s life experiences and securing a brighter future.
‘Clayton and Victoria were joy-filled, first-time parents excited about their growing family, enamored with their baby Jayce, and so in love with each other.
Osteen was a retired US Marine, previously serving as a rifleman with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment
The young mother-of-one took her own life just one day after her partner’s death
‘Tragically, for reasons completely unknown and totally out of character, Clayton took his own life December 31st, 2021. Reeling from the shock of loss, Victoria took her own life two days later.’
Pacheco’s grandmother, Bernice Bartolini, has likened the double tragedy to doomed Shakespearean lovers Romeo and Juliet.
‘My heart is so sad I thought I was hurting before I lost my beautiful granddaughter. Tragic Romeo and Juliet story. They are now together forever,’ she wrote in a Facebook post.
‘This loss is so painful … Victoria and I were very close when I lived in Florida, she was there for me. I wish I could have been there for her. My insides are being torn apart, my heart hurts so bad.’
Sheriff Mascara posted a heartfelt message on his department’s Facebook page after the funeral. He said: ‘Today we say goodbye to our brother and sister, Deputy Clayton Osteen and Deputy Victoria Pacheco. May you rest in peace.
‘We greatly appreciate the outpouring of support and love from our fellow law enforcement agencies and the community.’
The sheriff also said he prayed the double tragedy could help initiate change to help with mental health issues.
He said: ‘While it is impossible for us to fully comprehend the private circumstances leading up to this devastating loss, we pray that this tragedy becomes a catalyst for change, a catalyst to help ease the stigma surrounding mental well-being and normalize the conversation about the challenges so many of us face on a regular basis.’
For confidential support call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255