St. Lucie County sheriff speaks about deputy deaths

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 10:51 AM EST
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St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara on Friday shared his thoughts and feelings about the tragic deaths of two deputies who recently took their own lives.

The sheriff's office said Deputy Clayton Osteen tried to kill himself shortly before midnight on New Year's Eve. His family removed him from life support on Jan. 2.

Deputy Victoria Pacheco, after learning of Osteen's death, then took her own life. Osteen and Pacheco had a one-month-old son together named Jayce.

When the tragic news broke that two St. Lucie County deputies took their lives within days of each other, almost instantly people around the world rallied to support the baby they left behind.

Fundraisers through GoFundMe and the sheriff's office directly hitting nearly $200,000.

And the community stepped up, like Harbor Place in Port St. Lucie, collecting diapers, formula, and clothes, hoping to fill a whole van.

Indian River State College has also already committed to giving Jayce four years of college.

Sheriff Mascara confirmed Jayce is in a loving home with his aunt and uncle and their two kids.

"Clayton’s brother who is also a deputy here immediately took custody of Jayce," Mascara said.

Osteen and Pacheco are the agency’s first suicides since the mid-90s.

"These two were a gut punch for me and it was because of the manner," Mascara said.

The reason might always be mystery.

"We’re never going to have that answer," Mascara said, adding there was no indication of struggle in either of their lives.

Osteen, a marine, was hired in 2019 and excelled in his job. He was awarded "Deputy of the Year" and was the grandson and nephew of two prior sheriffs.

Pacheco was hired in 2020, received a life saving award, and seemed overjoyed about being a new mom.

"She was always happy, smiling, willing to lend a hand, very upbeat all the time," Mascara said.

Mascara said, naturally, their deaths prompted an internal review.

"Did I miss something? Did our agency miss something? After reviewing the facts of this tragic incident, after reviewing all of our policies, all of our protocols, I can definitely tell you we did not miss anything," Mascara said.

At the time of their deaths, the agency had a chaplain available, critical incident stress management training for all deputies, peer-to-peer sessions, emergency assistance program, and mental health professionals available to deputies.

The agency will soon have an app for all deputies to access that can put them in instant contact with health professionals who deal with first responders. Treasure Coast Hospice also continues to provide grief counseling.

“Jayce might not ever know his mom and dad, but we he has acquired 800 aunts and uncles here at the sheriffs office," Mascara said.

Anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide is encouraged to call 211 or the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Scripps Only Content 2022