Two girls, ages 12 and 14, have been charged with aggravated stalking for what a Florida sheriff described 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.
Rebecca Sedwick, 12, jumped to her death from a third-story cement plant structure in central Florida on Sept. 10 after being verbally, physically and cyber bullied throughout 2012 and 2013, Judd said.
"She should be here. And she should be here to see justice getting served," her mother, Tricia Norman said.
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At a Tuesday news conference, Judd said investigators were in the midst of gathering information from social media sites about the bullies’ interactions with Sedwick, but a Facebook post by the 14-year-old which read, “yes I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself, but I don’t give a (expletive),” prompted Monday's arrests.
Judd said detectives arrested the 12-year-old, who was one of Sedwick’s “primary” bullies, because they decided, “We can’t leave her out there. Who else is she going to torment, who else is she going to harass?”
While bullying is not a crime, Judd said, the girls have been charged with aggravated stalking — a third-degree felony — because the victim was younger than 16 years old.
"We've lost sleep over that child dying needlessly. And we want to see things change," Judd said.
In addition to the 14-year-old's Facebook confession, Judd said both girls made "incriminating statements" when they were arrested.
He said the girls’ case would proceed in the juvenile system and any punishment would depend on juvenile sanctions, adding, “it won’t be severe enough, in my estimation, for this conduct.”
Judd said the 14-year-old started to “torment” Sedwick in 2012 and according to a Polk County Sheriff’s statement, other children at the school also started bullying Sedwick to avoid being bullied themselves. The 12-year-old was Sedwick’s former “best friend,” Judd said.
Sedwick’s mother removed her daughter from the school, but the bullying continued online, where the 14-year-old wrote harassing insults, including that Sedwick should “kill herself” and “drink bleach and die,” Judd said.
“We believe that it certainly contributed to [Sedwick] jumping from the cement towers,” Judd said.