TAMPA — For nearly a year, as many as 15 girls ganged up on 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick and picked on her, authorities say, bombarding her with online messages such as “You should die” and “Why don’t you go kill yourself.”
Rebecca couldn’t take it anymore.
She changed one of her online screen names to “That Dead Girl.” She messaged a boy in North Carolina: “I’m jumping.” And then, on Monday, the girl from Lakeland, Fla., went to an abandoned concrete plant, climbed a tower and hurled herself to her death.
Authorities have seized computers and cellphones from some of the girls as they decide whether to bring charges in what appeared to be the nation’s latest deadly cyberbullying case.
The bullying started over a “boyfriend issue” last year at Crystal Lake Middle School, Sheriff Grady Judd said. Police said Rebecca was suspended at one point for fighting with a girl who used to be her friend.
Rebecca had been “absolutely terrorized” by the other girls, Judd said. He said detectives found some of her diaries at her home, and she wrote about how depressed she was about the situation.
The case has illustrated, once more, the ways in which young people are using the Internet to torment others.
In December, Rebecca was hospitalized for three days after cutting her wrists because of what she described as bullying, the sheriff said. Later, her mother, Tricia Norman, began home-schooling her in Lakeland, a city of about 100,000 midway between Tampa and Orlando, Judd said. This fall, Rebecca started at a new school, Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, and loved it, Judd said. But the bullying continued online.