Skip to main content

Last month, Rebecca Sedwick jumped to her death after a yearlong campaign of physical and online bullying from her now-former schoolmates in Lakeland, Florida.  Well, last night, Polk County sheriffs deputies arrested two of the ringleaders of that campaign on charges of felony stalking.

Rebecca jumped to her death Sept. 10 from atop an abandoned cement silo, an act that Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says was instigated in part by a group of bullies who threatened Rebecca in person and through social media.

At a Tuesday morning press conference at his headquarters near Winter Haven, Judd identified Guadalupe Shaw, 14, and Katelyn Roman, 12, as primary instigators in the harassment.

Each has been charged with felony aggravated stalking related to verbal and physical confrontations that occurred between December and February, mostly at Crystal Lake Middle School.

The girls remain on home detention after being processed Monday at the Juvenile Assessment Center in Bartow.

The local paper in Lakeland, The Ledger, has footage of the press conference where Judd announced the arrests.  Watch here.

Although they had amassed a welter of evidence against Shaw and Roman, Judd and his colleagues weren't ready to make an arrest yet.  That changed over the weekend, when they learned of a bloodcurdling post Shaw made on her Facebook page.  Sometime around 1 am on Saturday, Shaw wrote, "Yeah I bullied Rebecca and she killed her self but IDGAF."  When they learned about that post, Judd decided they had to move now.  He bluntly said, "We can't leave her out there.  Who else is she going to torment?  Who else is she going to harass?"  When Judd asked the parents to bring them in, they refused--leaving deputies with no choice but to arrest them.

According to Judd, the whole campaign started when Shaw found out Rebecca was dating her former boyfriend.  She then convinced Roman, Rebecca's best friend, not only to break off their friendship, but join in the bullying.  It ramped up from there.  There were at least two verbal confrontations, followed by online bullying.  It got so bad that Rebecca began cutting on herself and hinted at taking her own life.  Rebecca's mother, Tricia Norman, had her daughter go in for a mental evaluation under the state's Baker Act and then took her out of school after it didn't look like school officials were doing anything about it.  Rebecca then moved to a new school--but the online abuse ramped up again.

Shaw and Roman are currently on home detention.  According to Judd, since they have no prior record, they likely won't face stiff punishment.  That suits Rebecca's mom just fine.  Norman thinks Shaw and Norman need counseling and rehabilitation more than jail time.  They're likely going to get a severe reality check, though.  Since they are charged with felonies, their little stunt is going to be an albatross around them for years to come.

Judd had some particularly harsh words for Shaw and Roman's parents.  Apparently Shaw's parents knew what she was doing, but still allowed her unfettered access to social media.  Indeed, he cited the lack of parental guidance as a main reason why they decided to make an arrest now.

Judd lamented that so far, “Bullying is not a crime,” and used the occasion Tuesday to call for more parental responsibility in cases of cyber-bullying.

“Watch what your children do online,” he said. “Had the parents (of children involved in harassing Rebecca) done that early on, maybe Rebecca would still be alive.”

Judd also faulted Ask.fm and Kid Messenger for not cooperating with the investigation, saying they had to pull teeth in order to get them to cooperate.

All indications are that these are the first of several more arrests to come.  Earlier, officials said that as many as 15 girls were involved.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site