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15-year-old St. Pete girl charged with stalking in cyberbullying case

ST. PETERSBURG — Police arrested a 15-year-old St. Petersburg girl Thursday who they say sent hundreds of threatening text and computer messages to other teen girls, telling one to commit suicide so she didn't have to murder her.

Authorities charged the girl, whom the Tampa Bay Times is not identifying because of her age, with three counts of aggravated stalking and one count of tampering with a witness, all felonies.

Over the course of eight days, police said, the girl sent hundreds of threats like this one: "You're a pathetic piece of s--- … Nobody likes you … I hate you so much … I hope to cut you b----."

The girl used a messaging app called Kik to send the texts, the same application used by two teen girls in Polk County arrested in mid-October. Those two are accused of bullying Rebecca Ann Sedwick, who after a year of persecution from her peers, leaped from an abandoned cement factory silo to her death.

Police interviewed the St. Petersburg girl sending the texts on Monday and learned she had once been friends with three girls she targeted; they all attend St. Petersburg High School.

At some point the girl felt disenfranchised from the group and began sending the threats, police said.

The girl admitted to some of the messages, including one that read: "If this isn't bullying then I don't know what is."

But even after a sitdown with officers, she didn't stop the barrage of hateful texts.

One girl had a family member who recently died by suicide, and police said the girl encouraged her to do the same.

There are striking similarities to the case in Polk County, which gained nationwide media attention.

For more than a year Sedwick, 12, of Lakeland was the victim of threats via text and Facebook. Sheriff Grady Judd said as many as 15 girls were involved in the bullying.

Some of the messages sent to Sedwick by bullies told her to kill herself, and asked "Why are you still alive?" deputies said.

Before jumping, her browser history showed she searched suicide-related questions, asking how many Advil she needed to swallow to die. She messaged a boy she knew and told him she wanted to jump. On the same app the girls used to bully her into depression, Sedwick changed her screen name to "That Dead Girl."

After Sedwick's suicide, one of her alleged harassers, a 14-year-old girl, posted a message to her Facebook page that prompted the Sheriff's Office to arrest her and a 12-year-old girl.

"Yes, (I know) I bullied Rebecca (and) she killed herself," the message stated. The post was followed by a comment saying she did not care, punctuated with an emoticon heart.

In the Polk case, deputies took the older girl to a juvenile jail; the other was released to her parents.

In the St. Petersburg case, police took the 15-year-old to the Pinellas Juvenile Assessment Center.

Her family members could not be reached for comment Thursday.

15-year-old St. Pete girl charged with stalking in cyberbullying case 11/07/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 4:27pm]
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