Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Public safety

Stepmom of teen accused in Fla. bullying arrested

The stepmother of a 14-year-old accused of bullying a Lakeland girl before her suicide was arrested and charged with child abuse after a video depicting the woman beating a boy was posted on Facebook, a sheriff said Friday.

During a news conference, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said the arrest of 30-year-old Vivian Vosburg on two counts of child abuse with bodily harm and four counts of child neglect is a shocking chapter in a months-long tragic story in Central Florida.

Judd said Vosburg is the stepmother of one of two girls charged with felony aggravated stalking earlier in the week. Officials say the girls, 14 and 12, bullied and harassed 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick before she climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and hurled herself to her death Sept. 9.

It was a Facebook comment over the weekend that Judd said led him to arrest the girls.

He identified the girls and showed their mug shots during the news conference, but AP generally does not name juveniles charged with crimes.

Vosburg identified herself as the teen's mother when she appeared on CNN and ABC to say the girl didn't bully Rebecca and that she checked her stepdaughter's Facebook every night.

Vosburg was booked into the Polk County Jail on Friday evening. A voicemail message left on her home phone wasn't immediately returned.

Judd said that after detectives arrested Vosburg's stepdaughter, people from the community saw her on TV — then sent tips to the law enforcement agency, urging them to look at the Facebook page of another of Vosburg's children.

Detectives discovered a video posted in July 2013. According to the arrest affidavit, the video shows two boys fighting on a bed, then Vosburg steps in and begins punching and hitting the boys. One of the boys falls off the bed and appears to not move. Judd said none of the children were injured.

Judd, who showed the chaotic, minute-long video during the news conference, said there were four other children in the home at the time.

"This clearly indicates to us that this appears to be a normal way of life," he said. "They're laughing and cussing and throwing the F bomb around. Then they're posting that conduct for all to see."

Judd did not release the names of the victims or their relationship to Vosburg, stating only that "these are children she has access to. Vivian in this context was in charge of their well-being."

Child welfare authorities have been called to investigate.

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