Polk County deputies have arrested and charged two girls with felony aggravated stalking after last month's suicide of Rebecca Sedwick. One of the girls allegedly told Rebecca to "drink bleach and die."
Deputies say the arrests were prompted by a weekend Facebook post. In a press conference Tuesday morning, Sheriff Grady Judd cited a post from the 14-year-old girl that said, in summary, that she knows her bullying led to Sedwick's suicide, and she didn't care.
That post was "liked" by more than 30 people.
The sheriff's office charged that 14-year-old and Sedwick's former best friend, who is 12.
"We decided, look, we can't leave her out there," Judd said of the arrest. "Who else is she going to torment? Who else is she going to harass? Who is the next person she verbally and mentally abuses and attacks?"
Judd said the girls face felony charges because of Sedwick's age. Though Florida has adopted a bullying law, Judd said the sheriff's office was not likely pursuing any other charges against the girls.
"If we can find any charges we can bring against their parents, we will," Judd did say.
Judd also said he released the names and pictures of the girls because they're accused felons, and that is their policy. FOX 13 is not releasing their names or pictures because they are minors.
The 14-year-old is accused of leading the bullying, which started over a boyfriend.
Sedwick's mother has said her daughter was bullied by people she knew before the girl took her own life.
Rebecca was just 12 years old. Her body was found inside a former cement company's compound in Lakeland. Her mother, Trisha Norman, says she was bullied at Crystal Lake Middle School, so she pulled her out and home-schooled Rebecca for a few months last year.
Then she sent her to Lawton Chiles Middle Academy this year.
Norman said her daughter seemed to love it, but the bullying followed her online. The girls, according to an affidavit, would tell her that she was ugly, worthless, and deserved to die.
Tuesday afternoon, Norman placed the blame for Rebecca's suicide with the Polk County school system, and law enforcement.
"They just didn't take it seriously enough. The school in particular didn't take it seriously enough," Trisha Norman said.
Norman said the school told Rebecca to ignore the bullying.
"Becca was told several times that she needed to adapt to her surroundings, that she needed to develop a thicker skin, she needed to ignore them. It's kind of hard to ignore when it follows you constantly and it's as relentless as what they were," Norman said.
The sheriff's office was looking into as many as 15 girls after the suicide last month. Judd said the kids' actions crossed the line of bullying.
There were also physical confrontations where, according to witnesses, Sedwick would not fight back and walk away, the sheriff's office said.
The two girls were arrested Monday evening and booked into the Juvenile Assessment Center, deputies said. They were released the same evening into their respective parents' custody and remain on home detention.
The Associated Press contacted the 14-year-old's father in Lakeland and told the AP "none of it's true."
"My daughter's a good girl and I'm 100 percent sure that whatever they're saying about my daughter is not true," he is quoted as saying.
The girls were released from the Polk Juvenile Assessment facility Monday evening into home detention.
They made their first appearances in court Tuesday. The 14-year-old was taken back into custody; the 12-year-old was released into home detention.
The sheriff said he hopes to see the accused girls go through a treatment program, as well as lose their right to use social media.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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