Ex-Enron Chief's Son John Taylor Skilling Dies of Possible Overdose


"We have applied for permission for Jeff to attend his son's funeral, which will likely occur early next week. We are waiting for a response."

Before Madoff, Enron Was Symbol of Corporate Evil

Before the Madoff scandal, Enron became the ultimate symbol of corporate greed in the United States.

Skilling's son was youngest of three children with his first wife, Susan Lowe, who grew up with his siblings -- Kristen, 26, and Jeffrey, 25 -- in the Houston area.

According to his Facebook page, Skilling had nearly 1,000 friends and was interested in acting, singing, painting and power tumbling. His greatest love was music, say those who knew him.

Some speculated that Skilling's was despondent over the loss of a girlfriend, but his closest friends said they did not believe he took his own life.

"He was an amazing guy," said classmate Eric Smith, 21, who was active with Skilling at Chapman Radio. "He was a very talented musician...His show actually won best new show last semester."

Chapman co-hosted the campus show, "Philosophy of Music."

One of Skilling's oldest friends, who did not want to be identified, told ABC News that suicide made no sense.

"I have known JT since we were 9," said the Dallas, Texas, friend, who spent summers with Skilling at camp. "He was literally the sweetest, kindest person there could ever be. This is so shocking to all of us."

The friend learned about the death as Skillings' classmates began to post "RIP" message on Facebook earlier this week.

"The last time I talked to him, he seemed like he was living life and loved music so much. He was kind of a free spirit," said the friend. "He broke up with his girlfriend. Maybe he was looking for relief and mixed something or he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and no one was there to help."

"I know everyone is talking about his dad, but I hope they focus on JT's life, because the shadow his dad cast over him was not fair for a kid like him," he said.

At the time of his conviction, Jeffrey Skilling said, "'It's been very hard on me, but probably, more important, incredibly hard on my family."

Suicide, Depression Can Accompany Family Shame

Psychologists say that dealing with a parent who has committed a crime or brought shame on the family can be devastating for a son. And the younger their age, the more vulnerable they are.

"We don't want to make the mistake and go out on a limb -- we really don't even know if this was a suicide," said Ronald Levant, a professor of psychology at University of Akron in Ohio who is an expert on father-son relationships.

"But it's possible in this case, and with the Madoff son, that men tend to look at their fathers and model themselves after them," he said. "They form their ego ideal on the perception of their father and it can be particularly crushing for a man to have to have his ego idea essentially tainted or discredited."

John Taylor Skilling was 10 years old when the Enron scandal broke and only a sophomore in high school when his father was sent to prison.

"In the case of a young man whose father was essentially guilty of a heinous crime and he admired and looked up to the father, it can be a severe psychological blow and produce depression and thoughts of suicide," said Levant.

But the camp friend disagreed.

"He was my close friend and he died far away from home," he said. "I just want to make sure it doesn't sound like his dad drove him to it. That's not true at all. He loved his dad."

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