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