Two arrested for bullying 12-year-old Florida suicide victim

Two girls, ages 12 and 14, have been charged with felony aggravated stalking of 12-year-old girl who committed suicide after enduring online bullying for more than a year.

Rick Runion/The Ledger/AP
Aimee Galassi holds a sign during a carwash fundraiser for Rebecca Ann Sedwick at the 7-11 on U.S. 98 and Daughtery Road in Lakeland, Fla, Sept. 15.

Two girls have been arrested in the death of a 12-year-old central Florida girl who authorities say committed suicide after being bullied online by several girls for nearly a year, a sheriff said Tuesday.

The girls are 12 and 14, and they have been charged with felony aggravated stalking, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Grady Judd scheduled a news conference Tuesday morning in Winter Haven regarding the arrests.

Authorities have said Rebecca Sedwick was "terrorized" by as many as 15 girls who ganged up on her and picked on her for months through online message boards and texts. Some of the girls' computers and cellphones were seized in the investigation.

On Sept. 9, authorities say, Rebecca climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and hurled herself to her death.

The bullying began over a "boyfriend issue," and Rebecca had become depressed, Judd has said.

After the suicide, police looked at the girl's computer and found search queries for topics including "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.

Florida has a bullying law named after a teenager who killed himself after being harassed by classmates. Amended July 1 to cover cyberbullying, the law leaves punishment to schools, though law enforcement also can seek more traditional charges.

It can be difficult to definitively connect bullying to teen suicide, Michael Ollove reported for The Christian Science Monitor in 2010.

There are no reliable statistics that break out the number of teen suicides attributable to bullying. In most cases it may not be possible to definitively attribute a teen's suicide to a particular cause, be it bullying, a broken heart, a bad test score, or simply chronic depression. Nevertheless, the cases of so-called "bullycides" have drawn attention to the overall problem of bullying and the responsibility of schools to put a stop to it.

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