Jordan DeMay’s Legacy: Changing the Conversation

TV6′s Elizabeth Peterson sits down with Jordan’s mother, Jennifer Buta, on what would have been his 19th birthday
The death of Marquette teen Jordan DeMay last year continues to spark important conversations here in the Upper Peninsula and across the country
Published: Jun. 13, 2023 at 7:38 AM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - The death of Marquette teen Jordan DeMay last year continues to spark important conversations here in the Upper Peninsula and across the country. His story has been shared thousands of times. The impacts of his story have been felt in homes, communities near and far, and by those who loved and knew Jordan.

Jordan’s story shook us as parents, as educators, and as human beings.

In an interview with TV6′s Elizabeth Peterson, Jordan’s mother, Jennifer Buta recounts the morning she found out Jordan died by suicide.

She said, “that night, I last spoke to him on Facetime, said goodnight as normal. In the morning it was a normal morning for me. I got up with my kids, I had seen a text from Jordan during the night and I sent him a text just asking how he was and I hope he had a good day and he didn’t respond. And when he didn’t respond, I knew that something wasn’t right, so I contacted Jordan’s dad and things just escalated from there as we found what had happened in that six hour period the night before.”

Jordan died by suicide on March 25th, 2022 after an exchange we’ve just learned more about in the last month.

Three Nigerian men are charged with creating a fake account on Instagram and using a sexually explicit photo sent by Jordan to blackmail him into sending them money. We now know, that when Jordan didn’t send enough money, these men threatened to share the photo with his family and friends - pushing Jordan to take his own life.

It’s called sextortion - and it’s far more common than we may have ever realized.

The men in Jordan’s case are awaiting extradition to the United States to face charges. It will be a long legal process and one we will certainly follow but, in the meantime, Jordan’s story continues to make an impact and it’s important we keep this conversation going.

The stories and the memories of Jennifer Buta’s son, Jordan DeMay come without effort. Walking along the football field, where he spent so much time, Jennifer smiles, talking about senior photos, track meets, and who he was as a person - as her son.

“Jordan was a really social individual,” said Jennifer. “He had many groups of friends, he was kind to everyone. He would be the kid who would come into the room and flashed a smile or was dancing to music, goofing off in the locker room. But he was also really close to his famiilies and had a deep love for his sisters. We were very close, very close - yea.”

Jennifer recalls traveling for sports together, listening to music, shopping, goofing off - just having conversations in the kitchen, at night before bed - doing the simple things together like aligning their schedules - it’s those quiet moments, the ones you don’t realize are so precious, she seems to miss the most.

“I wish he were here today to celebrate his birthday, and we could go to the beach like he would want to. I miss him, every single day,” said Jennifer.

It’s been over a year since Jordan died by suicide. She says life since that day has been overwhelming, emotional, nearly too much to comprehend.

“A year ago, I said, I would live for Jordan, and we have to make something meaningful come of this horrible situation and if we can save one life, then what happened to him, means something.”

Jennifer many never be able to quantify the lives Jordan’s story saves... but, the way the conversation has changed around sextortion, suicide and social media... it’s impossible to not feel the impact. And it solidifies the decision to be upfront and forward about what happened to Jordan.

Elizabeth: “Why did you decide to come forward with it, rather than just stay quiet?”

Jennifer: “If it could happen to Jordan, it could happen to anyone. I wanted to prevent any other child from being victimized and put that out there. As parents, if we didn’t know about sextortion, we were certain other parents didn’t know about it either and it was time to sit down and have a conversation.”

And those conversations are happening, here in the Upper Peninsula and across the country. Jennifer has heard from parents as far away as Georgia. She’s felt pride, knowing that parents are sitting down and engaging with their kids in new ways, because of Jordan.

Elizabeth: “For me as a mother of a little boy, I hadn’t had a conversation like that with my son, but you bet I did as soon as I read your story and read about Jordan. So, I can only imagine there have been a lot of those kinds of moments, where people have reached out, are you getting that kind of response?”

Jennifer: “We get messages all time from parents, it definitely sparked conversations that parents would not have had with their children and also let children know that if this did happen, it’s okay to go to your parents and ask them for help in this situation.”

It doesn’t take away her loss - it doesn’t fill the void - but it does keep her moving forward - to see her son’s legacy form into a meaningful and powerful force.