(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