LAKELAND – Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Thursday that a 12-year-old girl committed suicide after she was bullied online by more than a dozen girls, and that his agency is investigating the cyber-bullying.
During a news conference, Judd said that Rebecca Ann Sedwick jumped to her death on Monday at an old cement business. Investigators say the girl was despondent after others had posted hate messages about her online.
Sedwick was “absolutely terrorized on social media,” Judd said.
The Lakeland Ledger reports that detectives found multiple social media applications where Sedwick was constantly bullied with messages, including “Go kill yourself,” and “Why are you still alive?”
Before her death, Sedwick had searched questions online related to suicide, including “How many over-the-counter drugs do you take to die?” and “How many Advil do you have to take to die?”
Detectives also found photos of Sedwick with razor blades lying on her arms and with her head resting on a railroad track, Judd said.
He said parents of all 15 girls have cooperated with detectives and several cellphones and laptops have been confiscated.
Judd said a 12-year-old boy in North Carolina, who Sedwick met through social media, knew of her plan. Sedwick messaged him only hours before her death saying she was dead and “I’m jumping, I can’t take it anymore.”
Sedwick also changed her name on a free messaging application to “That Dead Girl.”
Judd said detectives are trying to investigate the social media applications that Sedwick used, including Kik and Ask.fm, but many of the websites are based in other countries.
Florida has an anti-bullying law that covers cyber-bullying. As the investigation continues, Judd said charges could be filed – including cyber-stalking.
“If we can get any evidence of a criminal offense, the person or persons involved will be punished,” he said.
If detectives can find evidence, according to Florida law, the girls could be charged with felony cyber- stalking because Sedwick was younger than 16 years old.
“If you bully somebody online and it’s reported to us and we can build a credible case, we will charge you,” the sheriff said.