Girls blamed in cyberbullying whose victim, 12, killed herself
TAMPA, Fla. — For nearly a year, as many as 15 girls ganged up on 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick and picked on her, authorities say, bombarding her with online messages such as “You should die” and “Why don't you go kill yourself.”
Rebecca couldn't take it anymore.
She changed one of her online screen names to “That Dead Girl.” She messaged a boy in North Carolina: “I'm jumping.” And then, on Monday, the Lakeland girl went to an abandoned concrete plant, climbed a tower and hurled herself to her death.
Authorities have seized computers and cellphones from some of the girls as they decide whether to bring charges in what appeared to be the nation's latest deadly cyberbullying case.
The bullying started over a “boyfriend issue” last year at Crystal Lake Middle School, said Sheriff Grady Judd, but provided no details. Police said Rebecca was suspended at one point for fighting with a girl who used to be her friend.
Rebecca had been “absolutely terrorized” by the other girls, Judd said. He said detectives found some of her diaries at her home, and she talked of how depressed she was about the situation.
“Her writings would break your heart,” he said.
The case has illustrated, once more, the ways in which youngsters are using the Internet to torment others.
“There is a lot of digital drama. Middle-school kids are horrible to each other, especially girls,” said Perry Aftab, a New Jersey-based lawyer and expert on cyberbullying.
In 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.
This fall, Rebecca started at a new school, Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, and loved it, Judd said. But the bullying continued online.
“She put on a perfect, happy face. She never told me,” Rebecca's mother, Tricia Norman, told the Lakeland Ledger. “I never had a clue. I mean, she told me last year when she was being bullied, but not this year, and I have no idea why.”
After Rebecca's suicide, police looked at her computer and found search queries such as “what is overweight for a 13-year-old girl”; “how to get blades out of razors”; and “how many over-the-counter drugs do you take to die.” One of her screensavers also showed Rebecca with her head resting on a railroad track.
Detectives said the other girls' parents have been cooperative.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Fight against Islamic State at impasse, military commanders say
- Doctor 1st Ebola virus case in New York City
- Federal officials: Dallas nurse free of Ebola
- West Virginia University expels 3 students for postgame misconduct
- Sampling of toxins under way at former steel plant in Kentucky
- Feds fault security of tax info gathered for health care law benefits
- Huge gold nugget goes on sale for $400K
- Detainee to be transferred from Afghanistan to U.S. for trial
- Driver accused of pretending to be Ohio cop
- Defacements in national parks lead to outrage, probe
- 3 killed in Md. mid-air collision