Two girls arrested in Florida online bullying death

Tue Oct 15, 2013 1:01pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Two girls, ages 12 and 14, have been charged with felony aggravated stalking for what a Florida sheriff described on Tuesday as "maliciously harassing" a 12-year-old girl who jumped from a tower to her death.

The middle school students were booked into a juvenile detention center on Monday night and released to their parents under house arrest, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.

The two "repeatedly and maliciously harassed" Rebecca Ann Sedwick, who became so despondent that she climbed a tower at an abandoned cement plant and jumped to her death on September 9, Judd told a news conference in Winter Haven, Florida.

Sedwick was targeted because she had dated the 14-year-old defendant's boyfriend, the sheriff said.

Several more girls are believed to have been involved in cyberbullying, but investigators are having difficulty obtaining information about their online accounts, Judd said.

"These are the two primary harassers. They are the two stalkers. They are the two bulliers," he said.

The two called Sedwick names, intimidated her, threatened to beat her up and engaged in at least one physical fight with her, the sheriff said.

They sent online messages calling Sedwick "ugly" and telling her: "You should drink bleach and die," "Nobody likes you," and "You should go kill yourself," Judd said.

He said their treatment of Sedwick was "a contributing factor" in her suicide and the stalking was a felony charge because of Sedwick's age.

Neither defendant had any previous arrests and because they are juveniles it was unlikely that either would serve time in jail, Judd said. It will be up to the state attorney's office to decide how to proceed, he added.

The sheriff said his office decided to go ahead with the arrests after the 14-year-old posted an online message on Saturday night saying: "Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself but IDGAF," an acronym meaning "I don't give a (expletive)."

He said he was concerned that the girl's parents were still allowing her to use electronic devices and that "She's right back online doing the same kind of things again."

(Reporting by Jane Sutton; Editing by Alden Bentley and Gunna Dickson)

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Comments (24)
MikeySee wrote:
The parents of said kids should be put under investigation as well. This kind of, on-going, behavior by 12 and 14 year olds couldn’t have happened without their parents knowing and allowing it. If the parents ‘did not know’ then they should still be under investigation for neglect. If parents start being held accountable for the actions of their kids, maybe more will start actually taking a bit of responsibility instead of letting their kids go nuts.

Oct 15, 2013 10:31am EDT  --  Report as abuse
JamVee wrote:
If you are not closely watching what your teenagers are doing “on-line”, especially on social sites, I would have to question your parenting skills. That’s like giving them the keys to your car and never questioning where they are going or what they are doing . . .

Oct 15, 2013 10:53am EDT  --  Report as abuse
gcf1965 wrote:
I believe if more kids were taught to deal with adversity instead of being taught that the opinion of others matter so much, that bullying would be a non issue. There was a day when we raised kids to be strong and smart and capable. Bullying is no worse today than in times past, its just that we have stopped “raising” kids and instead just let them figure it out, which many never do. A sad event truly, but dont lay the blame on these 2 girls, lay it on the parent(s) of the one who died for failing to equip their child with life skills. The other 2 girls needed to have some discipline and parenting as well, but they should not be held liable for the death.

Oct 15, 2013 11:39am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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