Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

October 16, 2013

Fla. bullying case: Girls aged 12 and 14 charged

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — After 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick committed suicide last month, one of her tormenters continued to make comments about her online, even bragging about the bullying, a sheriff said Tuesday.

The especially callous remark hastened the arrest of a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl who were primarily responsible for bullying Rebecca, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. They were charged with stalking and released to their parents.

"'Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself but I don't give a ...' and you can add the last word yourself," the sheriff said, quoting a Facebook post the older girl made Saturday.

Police in central Florida said Rebecca was tormented online and at school by as many as 15 girls before she climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and hurled herself to her death Sept. 9. She is one of at least a dozen or so suicides in the past three years that were attributed at least in part to cyberbullying.

The sheriff said they were still investigating the girls, and trying to decide whether the parents should be charged.

"I'm aggravated that the parents aren't doing what parents should do," the sheriff said. "Responsible parents take disciplinary action."

About a year ago, the older girl threatened to fight Rebecca while they were sixth-graders at Crystal Lake Middle School and told her "to drink bleach and die," the sheriff said. She also convinced the younger girl to bully Rebecca, even though they had been best friends.

The girls repeatedly intimidated Rebecca and called her names, the sheriff said, and at one point, the younger girl even beat up Rebecca at school.

Both girls were charged as juveniles with third-degree felony aggravated stalking. If convicted, it's not clear how much time, if any at all, the girls would spend in juvenile detention because they did not have any previous criminal history, the sheriff said.

The sheriff's office identified the two girls, but The Associated Press generally does not name juveniles charged with crimes.

The bullying began after the 14-year-old girl started dating a boy Rebecca had been seeing, the sheriff said.

A man who answered the phone at the 14-year-old's Lakeland home said he was her father and told The Associated Press "none of it's true."

"My daughter's a good girl and I'm 100 percent sure that whatever they're saying about my daughter is not true," he said.

At their mobile home, a barking pit bull stood guard and no one came outside despite shouts from reporters for an interview.

Neighbor George Colom said he had never interacted with the girl but noticed her playing roughly with other children on the street.

"Kids getting beat up, kids crying," Colom said. "The kids hang loose unsupervised all the time."

A telephone message left at the 12-year-old girl's home was not immediately returned and no one answered the door.

Orlando attorney David Hill said detectives may be able to pursue contributing to the delinquency of a minor charge for the parents, if they knew their daughters' were bullying Rebecca yet did nothing about it.

But it "will be easy to defend since the parents are going to say, 'We didn't know anything about it,'" said Hill, who is not involved in the case.

Perry Aftab, a New Jersey-based lawyer, told AP last month that it is difficult to bring charges against someone accused of driving a person to suicide, in part because of free-speech laws.

The case has illustrated, once more, the ways in which youngsters are using the Internet to torment others.

In a review of news articles last month, AP found about a dozen suicides in the U.S. since October 2010 that were attributed at least in part to cyberbullying. Aftab said she thought the number was at least twice that.

Before her death, Rebecca changed one of her online screen names to "That Dead Girl" and she messaged a boy in North Carolina: "I'm jumping." Detectives found some of her diaries at her home, and she talked of how depressed she was about the situation.

Last December, Rebecca was hospitalized for three days after cutting her wrists because of what she said was bullying, according to the sheriff. Later, after Rebecca complained that she had been pushed in the hallway and that another girl wanted to fight her, Rebecca's mother began home-schooling her in Lakeland, a city of about 100,000 midway between Tampa and Orlando, Judd said.

This fall, Rebecca started at a new school, but the bullying continued online, authorities said.

"Rebecca's mother went above and beyond to create interventions. The one issue that Rebecca's mom said to us was, 'I just didn't want to have her not like me, so I wanted to give her access to her cell phone so she could talk to her friends,'" Judd said. "Rebecca's family is absolutely devastated by this. Quite frankly, we're all devastated by this."

___

Kay reported from Miami.

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Valdosta Daily Times e-Edition, or our print edition

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Palestinian rivals to try again for unity deal

    Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah agreed Wednesday to form a unity government and hold new elections — a potentially historic step toward mending the rift that has split their people between two sets of rulers for seven years.

    April 24, 2014

  • Obama administration weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

    The Obama administration is encouraging many nonviolent federal prisoners to apply for early release — and expecting thousands to take up the offer.

    April 24, 2014

  • Earns Facebook_Stew.jpg Facebook 1Q results soar; CFO to step down

    Facebook’s earnings nearly tripled and revenue grew sharply in the first quarter, surpassing Wall Street’s expectations thanks to an 82 percent increase in advertising revenue.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Georgia Gun Bill_Stew.jpg Gun carry rights expanded in Ga. under new law

    Criticized by one group as the “guns everywhere” bill, Georgia took a big step Wednesday toward expanding where licensed carriers can take their weapons, with the governor signing a law that allows them in bars without restriction and in some churches, schools and government buildings under certain circumstances.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Clemson Spring Game F_Stew.jpg Clemson’s Swinney won’t change after complaint

    Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Wednesday he wouldn’t change procedures after the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s letter of complaint expressing concerns about the football program’s connection to the coach’s Christian religion.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Today in History

    In 1800, Congress approved a bill establishing the Library of Congress.

    April 24, 2014

  • Michigan affirmative ban is OK, Supreme Court says

    A state’s voters are free to outlaw the use of race as a factor in college admissions, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a blow to affirmative action that also laid bare tensions among the justices about a continuing need for programs that address racial inequality in America.

    April 23, 2014

  • ‘Piles and piles’ of bodies in South Sudan slaughter

    Gunmen who targeted both children and the elderly left “piles and piles” of bodies — many of those in a mosque — in a provincial capital in South Sudan, the U.N.’s top humanitarian official in the country said Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014

  • Obama_Stew.jpg Obama views mudslide scene

    Swooping over a terrain of great sadness and death, President Barack Obama took an aerial tour Tuesday of the place where more than three dozen people perished in a mudslide last month, then mourned privately with those who lost loved ones in the destruction.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wall Street_Stew.jpg Earnings and corporate deals lift U.S. stocks

    Corporate deals and some solid earnings reports propelled the stock market to its sixth straight gain Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Given the amount of rain recently, what's your favorite “rain” song?

Singing in the Rain
Purple Rain
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
November Rain
Rainy Night in Georgia
Other
     View Results