Cyberbullying investigated in suicide of Florida girl

ORLANDO, Florida Fri Sep 13, 2013 5:57pm EDT

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ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Authorities in Florida said on Friday they were investigating former schoolmates of a 12-year-old girl who killed herself in central Florida after she was bullied online for months.

It was not yet clear whether any criminal charges would be filed stemming from the suicide on Monday of Rebecca Ann Sedwick, who leaped to her death from the tower of an abandoned cement business site near her home in Lakeland.

While Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told a news conference on Thursday that more than a dozen young girls were under investigation for bullying Sedwick, a sheriff's office spokeswoman said the number of possible suspects had been narrowed down considerably.

"There may have been only two or three of them who participated in the bullying," said sheriff spokeswoman Donna Wood.

She added that any filing of criminal charges in the case could still take some time.

"We have to determine if a crime has been committed. We have cyber-stalking laws and cyberbullying laws. It really depends on how the case goes," Wood said

Judd said earlier that investigators found messages on social media addressed to Rebecca stating, "You should die," and "Why don't you go kill yourself."

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, he said Sedwick was despondent and "beat down" after receiving the hate-filled messages and "absolutely terrorized."

The problems between Rebecca and her former classmates began in 2012 over a "boyfriend issue," according to Judd.

At one point, before her death, Sedwick was hospitalized for mental health treatment, and she was home-schooled before enrolling at a new school in the Lakeland area, away from her ex-classmates, the sheriff said.

After her death, investigators discovered that Sedwick had told a 12-year-old boy and online friend in North Carolina about her decision to kill herself, but he told no one, Judd said.

"I'm jumping. I can't take it anymore," she wrote in a message to him.

(Editing by Tom Brown and Richard Chang)

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Comments (4)
acman2k11 wrote:
This is another example of how social networks are ruining young people. If there was not a social web site these teenagers used then this girl would most likely still be alive. Social network/media site are ruining people and this country.

Sep 13, 2013 6:24pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
I was horribly bullied when I was in school during the 1970′s. The bullying was not only from schoolmates but also from teachers, who found out they could get a good laugh from my classmates by participating in the bullying. I am now in my 50′s and thanks to therapy, medications and self-imposed social isolation, I am finally getting over it. I had no friends, and still don’t.

I thank the heavens above that I am now an adult and I’m not subject to bullying in this century. I feel horrible for this girl, as well as others who kill themselves because of bullying. At least in the old days, I could come home and be away from it, but these kids now cannot escape it.

R.I.P. Rebecca, I pray that laws are changed so these horrible bullies can be charged with MURDER and will be charged as adults.

And to parents of bullied kids, DO NOT blame your child. My mother used to say that I was bullied because I was unfriendly and liked music that no one else liked…that is B.S. I was bullied because I was horribly shy, was overweight, and would never stick up for myself. You parents need to try to help your kids, not turn against them.

Sep 13, 2013 6:27pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This sounds eerily similar to a message I received from an individual bwho just yesterday told me I should “swallow a bucket of bleach.” I wonder if my same cyber-stalker could be responsible for the bullying of this girl, or at the very least, have known about it? She has Florida ties and is a well-known cyber-bully which has been written about extensively on my own blog briannechantal[dot]com and gossiping pens[dot]com. It is tragic that we keep having to hear about these kinds of stories.

Sep 13, 2013 6:56pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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