Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sheriff in Rebecca Sedwick suicide warns parents of cyberbullying

On national television this morning, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd recalled how he felt when he first saw Rebecca Ann Sedwick's body after she jumped to her death last month.

"It broke my heart," Judd told Robin Roberts on 'Good Morning America'.

Since then, Judd has vowed to warn parents about the dangers of cyberbulling and prosecute anyone – children or adults – who commits such crimes.

Rebecca Ann Sedwick

"People deserve to live a healthy, normal life," Judd said. "We will prosecute anyone we can prove has bullied or stalked someone."

Judd annoucned two arrests Tuesday in connection with the 12-year-old girl's suicide on Sept. 10. She jumped to her death from a silo at an abandoned concrete factory about a mile from her home.

Judd told Roberts that the girl's parents did everything they could to help, including separating her from her bullies, switching schools and putting her in counseling.

They did not do what Judd tells parents they should do in extreme situations – take your kids offline.

He wants parents to have tough talks with their children about social media and instant-messaging sites and take their access to them away if they are bullying other children.

None of the efforts from Rebecca or her parents stopped her tormentors from posting cruel messages on social media sites, investigators said.

"Yes ik [I know] I bullied Rebecca nd she killed her self but IDGAF [I don't give a (expletive)]."

That message — posted Saturday on Facebook by Rebecca's 14-year-old persecutor — ended with a heart symbol. And resulted in an arrest.

Polk County deputies charged the author of the post and another 12-year-old girl with aggravated stalking.

Sheriff Grady Judd
Detectives were going to wait until their investigation was complete before making any arrests but Judd told Matt Lauer on the 'Today Show' that the Saturday post prompted the early arrests.

"That post was the tipping point," Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said during a Tuesday news conference. "She forced this arrest."

Judd said he was angry over the post but also worried that the 14-year-old would bully others online.

"She doesn't get this at all," Judd said. "She can be taunting and bullying another child and we're not going to accept that."

The 14-year-old instigated the bullying after she started dating Rebecca's ex-boyfriend, Judd said.

The 12-year-old girl was once Rebecca's friend — but the 14-year-old girl turned her against Rebecca.

The 14-year-old is in the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice until her next hearing and the 12-year-old is on house arrest.

After their arrests, Judd said, the girls admitted the abuse.

The Orlando Sentinel is not naming them because of their ages. or @jerriannOS

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