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I-Team: ‘CSI’ creator turns to graphic novels, helps teens and families deal with difficult topics |

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I-Team: ‘CSI’ creator turns to graphic novels, helps teens and families deal with difficult topics

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) -- The most successful writer to ever come out of Las Vegas has a new passion -- books for troubled teens. Anthony Zuiker had a regular job at a Strip resort when he got the idea for a crime drama that became a television empire "CSI."

Zuiker has returned to Las Vegas for another project -- one that focuses on the struggles of young people. 

He spoke exclusively with the I-Team. 

"Hailee was my firstborn child and just the epitome of Daddy's little girl. The apple of my eye for sure in that day changed my life forever. I'll never be the same person."

Nearly seven years after the death of 13-year old Hailee Lamberth, her family still struggles with unimaginable pain and guilt.  Bubbly, bright, a straight-A student, Hailee didn’t seem like a suicide risk, but relentless bullying by classmates, both at school and on social media, drove her to take her own life. 

 “I don't think we'll ever recover,” said Jason Lamberth. “You know, we take one day at a time. Each day is a challenge. And some days are more challenging than others.” 

Hailee Lamberth

Hailee didn’t tell her family about the bullying. 

School officials knew but never informed the parents. 

The lamberth’s sued the Clark County School District.  After a bitter court fight, the district settled. 

Lamberth lobbied the legislature to pass Hailee’s Law, which set new standards requiring schools to be more transparent with families of kids who are bullied. 

Now, the lessons learned from Hailee’s tragedy will be shared with schools all over North America. 

“It's amazing. Just looking at the cover picture. I mean, that's, that's Hailee,” Lamberth said. 

This graphic novel about Hailee’s struggle was written for a teenage audience and designed to be incorporated into school curriculum. The company behind the book carried a familiar name -- Zuiker Publishing.

“This is obviously a hot button topic for me since my father committed suicide in 2006, local Eddie Zuiker. 

Television writer and producer Anthony Zuiker got to know Las Vegas while working as a tram driver at The Mirage Resort. He had an idea for a TV series about the forensic experts who use hard science to solve crimes.  

“CSI” was an instant hit and spawned multiple spinoff series, turning Zuiker into a force in the industry and a wealthy man. 

He and his wife Michelle, a longtime school teacher, wanted to give something back so they created a foundation, a publishing company and a series of books, each one focused on a true story about issues faced by teens every day.  

“It's divorce, cyberbullying, racism, body image, autism, school, shooting, and suicide, and transgender comes out in the fall,” Zuiker said. “So those are first eight, they're all topics never going away.” 

The Zuikers were moved by the Lamberth’s story and cautiously approached the family about a Hailee book.  It’s just been released, timed to coincide with suicide prevention month. 

It’s not a money making operation—the Zuiker’s seek tax deductible donations in communities around the country, then donate books, along with lesson plans to use in schools. They’ve given away more than 50,000 books. 

Hailee’s story, “Goodbye,” is the latest. 

“When things are free for our school district, obviously it's like you know, we'll take it, we can't keep the books in stock, Zuiker said. “The challenge is always to raise more money to buy books for free, but our model is ‘take this.’”   

Because of the pandemic, the rollout of Hailee’s book has been somewhat muted.  Zuiker is hoping his former hometown gets the message.  

“There's plenty of kids with great stories to help other kids,” Zuiker said.

You can see the full interview with Anthony Zuiker and learn more about his foundation on mysterywire.com.