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Portrait Of Bullied Girl Emerges From Case File

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

Associated Press News Release
By TAMARA LUSH
Updated: April 7, 2014, 5pm

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) -- The investigative file of a Florida girl who authorities say committed suicide in 2013 because of bullying reveals a more complete portrait of her and her life.

Twelve-year-old Rebecca Sedwick had a spotty relationship with her father, was concerned by her mother and stepfather's fighting and had just broken up with an online boyfriend before she jumped to her death at an abandoned cement plant.

Days after Rebecca's death, authorities charged two young girls with stalking because they bullied her in-person nine months before her suicide. The charges were later dropped for one of the girls and the other entered into a diversion program.

However, the file contains scant evidence of cyberbullying, even though officials publicly described cruel text and social media messages as reasons for Rebecca's suicide.


Associated Press News Release
By TAMARA LUSH

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- The mother of a Florida girl who committed suicide after she was allegedly bullied is backing a bill that would make bullying illegal in the state.

During a news conference Friday, Tricia Norman, along with her attorney and Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, said that HB 451 and an accompanying bill in the Florida Senate have been filed. The bill would make it a first-degree misdemeanor to willfully, maliciously or repeatedly harass or cyberbully another person, and a third-degree felony if there's a "credible threat" involved in the harassment.

Norman's daughter, 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, committed suicide in September. A month later, the Polk County Sheriff's Office arrested two of her classmates, ages 12 and 14, on charges of aggravated stalking. Those charges were dropped because of insufficient evidence.


CBS Miami News Copy

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Charges have been dropped against two teenage girls who a sheriff had accused of bullying a Florida classmate who later committed suicide, the girls’ attorneys said Wednesday.

Last month, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd announced the arrest of a 12-year-old girl and a 14-year-old girl as juveniles on stalking charges. He said then that the two were primarily responsible for bullying Rebecca Sedwick, a 12-year-old who jumped to her death at an abandoned concrete plant in September.

Attorney Jose Baez demanded an apology on Wednesday from Judd for arresting his client, the 12-year-old. The lawyer said it was “reckless” for Judd to have brought a juvenile count of third-degree felony aggravated stalking against the girl.

Separately Wednesday, attorney Ronald Toward told The Associated Press in an email Wednesday evening that the same count had been dropped against his 14-year-old client by the State Attorney’s Office in Polk County.

At an earlier news conference in Orlando, Baez said an apology was in order from the sheriff for placing the 12-year-old’s name and mugshot before television cameras at news conference last month announcing the arrests.

Baez on Wednesday described his client as a “troubled young girl” who had been bullied herself.

“I found zero evidence having to do with my client that would rise to the level of a criminal act,” Baez told reporters.

At a news conference in Winter Haven — just minutes after Baez’s news conference had ended — Judd said he didn’t regret anything he did. He said that he is happy with the outcome and that the girls will receive “the services they need.”

“Our goal is that these kids never bully anyone again, never torment anyone again,” Judd said.

Baez said his client hasn’t ruled out a lawsuit against the sheriff.
Brian Haas, a spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office in Polk County, said Florida law prevented him from commenting on juvenile cases.

At last month’s news conference announcing the arrests, Judd said the bullying began about a year ago after the 14-year-old girl started dating Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend. The older girl threatened to fight Rebecca while they were sixth-graders at a middle school in Lakeland, Fla., and told her “to drink bleach and die,” the sheriff had said. She also persuaded the younger girl to bully Rebecca, even though they had been best friends, the sheriff said.

Though both teens had been identified by authorities, The Associated Press doesn’t generally name juveniles charged with crimes.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Associated Press Release

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- The mother of a 12-year-old Florida girl who jumped to her death after being bullied for months is exploring her legal options.

Attorneys said Thursday that they've taken no legal action yet on behalf of Rebecca Sedwick's mother. But they haven't ruled out suing Polk County schools or the parents of two girls who were arrested in connection with Sedwick's death.

Among the attorneys representing the mother, Tricia Norman, is former Gov. Charlie Crist.

Norman's attorneys say they plan to establish a website to help her raise money to pay for funeral costs. Any additional funds will be used for anti-bullying causes.

Two of Sedwick's schoolmates, who deputies say were primarily responsible for the bullying, were arrested last week. They were charged with stalking.


Associated Press Release

Florida deputies have arrested the stepmother of a 14-year-old accused of bullying a girl prior to her suicide.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office said Friday that 30-year-old Vivian Vosburg has been booked into the county jail on two counts of child abuse with bodily harm and four counts of child neglect.

Officials say Vosburg beat a child with her fists in her home as several other children watched.

Sheriff Grady Judd said at a news conference that one child in the home took a cellphone video of the beating and posted it on Facebook.

Judd says Vosburg is the stepmother of one of two girls charged with felony aggravated stalking earlier in the week. Officials say the girls bullied and harassed 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick before she committed suicide.


Associated Press Release

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) -- Two girls have been arrested in the death of a 12-year-old central Florida girl who authorities say committed suicide after being bullied online for nearly a year.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd has scheduled a news conference Tuesday morning in Winter Haven regarding the arrests of the girls, who are 12 and 14.

According to the sheriff's office, the girls are charged with felony aggravated stalking.

Authorities have said Rebecca Sedwick was "terrorized" by as many as 15 girls who ganged up on her and picked on her for months through online message boards and texts.

Authorities say that on Sept. 9, Rebecca climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and hurled herself to her death.


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