Florida Sheriff Explains Why He Charged Dead 12-Year-Old's Alleged Bullies

By: CBS News (Posted by Melissa Brunner)
By: CBS News (Posted by Melissa Brunner)
The sheriff in Polk County, Fla., this week arrested two girls, ages 12 and 14, on felony charges of aggravated stalking in the case of a girl who killed herself after being bullied.

Rebecca Sedwick, 12, took her own life after months of being bullied. / CBS News

(CBS News) Police say Rebecca Sedwick was relentlessly tormented by schoolmates for a year. Finally, the 12-year-old girl climbed to a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and leaped to her death.

The sheriff in Polk County, Fla., took the unusual step this week of arresting two girls, ages 12 and 14, on felony charges of aggravated stalking in the case. The arrests were made after the 14-year-old boasted on the Internet that she had bullied Rebecca, Sheriff Grady Judd said.

"She made a comment in reference to, 'Yeah, I bullied Rebecca, and yeah, she's dead, but I don't give a (blank).' We saw that and we thought, that's over the top," the sheriff said.

Authorities said the 14-year-old and her 12-year-old accomplice harassed Rebecca at school, then followed her online.

Authorities say their taunts included "You should drink bleach and die, no one likes you," and "You should go kill yourself."

Rebecca hurled herself to her death on Sept. 9 after writing to friends, "I am jumping and I can't take it anymore."

Her mother, Tricia Norman, said last month that she wanted her daughter's tormenters to be held accountable.

"I want them to pay for it. Because they took my baby away, they took her self confidence away," Norman said, crying.

"They took her self-worth away," the mom said. "And now she's gone from me. "

The sheriff hasn't ruled out charging the young suspects' parents.

"If you can't supervise your child, if they don't behave, then take away their devices. Don't allow them to have Facebook," Judd said.

He believes the arrested girls and their parents are both at fault.

"I blame them both equally," she sheriff said. "This incident goes way back into 2012, November or December, with fights, with stalking, with harassing, with intimidating, with terrorizing Rebecca Sedwick. So the defendants' parents knew they were bullying, knew there were problems."

The two suspects are now under house arrest. If they are convicted, the sheriff says they are unlikely to face jail time because this is their first offense.

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