The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 16, 2013

2 charged in Fla. after bullied girl's suicide

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) — It was a cold-hearted online post that a Florida sheriff said hastened the arrest of two girls, aged 12 and 14, in the bullying-suicide case of Rebecca Sedwick.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd repeated the older girl's Facebook comment almost word for word at a news conference Tuesday.

"'Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself but I don't give a ...' and you can add the last word yourself," Judd said.

But in an interview with ABC News that aired Wednesday, a couple identified as the 14-year-old's parents said their daughter would never write something like that and that the girl's Facebook page had been hacked.

Authorities 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. But the two girls arrested were primarily the ones who bullied Rebecca, the sheriff said. They have been charged with stalking and released to their parents.

Rebecca 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.

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