Miami girl, 14, hangs herself while streaming it live

An image of Nakia Venant on her Facebook page. On the social media platform where she liked to post personal videos, some longer than an hour, she called herself Hothead Nikee. (Facebook/Miami Herald)
An image of Nakia Venant on her Facebook page. On the social media platform where she liked to post personal videos, some longer than an hour, she called herself Hothead Nikee. (Facebook/Miami Herald)
Published Jan. 25, 2017

For two hours, Nakia Venant broadcast from the bathroom of her Miami Gardens foster home, eventually fashioning a homemade noose from her scarf. The live feed ended abruptly.

Nakia, a petite 14-year-old with long hair and a sweet smile, killed herself overnight Sunday while live-streaming the event.

Administrators with the Florida Department of Children & Families would offer little detail Tuesday about Nakia's death, other than to confirm that both child welfare administrators and the Miami Gardens Police Department were investigating the suicide death of "a child … in the care of a foster family."

"We are absolutely horrified and devastated by the news of this young girl's death," said DCF Secretary Mike Carroll. "We will do everything we can to support this family and all those who cared for her as they begin to heal from this tragedy. We will conduct a comprehensive, multidisciplinary special review to examine this child's history and the circumstances related to serving the child."

In a reply to a request from the Miami Herald on Tuesday afternoon, DCF released a three-sentence incident report on Nakia's death. It said the teen attached her scarf to a "shower-glass door frame" to end her life at around 3:03 a.m. and was declared dead "at a local hospital."

One of Nakia's friends saw the live feed that showed her hanging in the bathroom, but efforts to save the girl were hindered by a series of mishaps. The friend called Miami-Dade Police. Officers showed up at the friend's house. She then gave them an incorrect address in Miami. The residents at that address gave police the address of her foster home in Miami Gardens, Miami Gardens police spokeswoman Petula Burks told the Herald.

Miami Gardens officers found her hanging there — while her foster parents were asleep in their bedroom. They tried to resuscitate her, as did a fire-rescue crew. Efforts to revive Nakia were unsuccessful and she was taken to Jackson North Hospital, Burks said.

"Nakia was smart academically, loved to smile and (had) lots of charisma," said a close family friend, Gerta Telfort. She said Nakia was her mother's first child and only girl — and that her dream was to write a book on her life. The girl had started a daily journal, Telfort said.

She also said that Nakia, a seventh grader at Young Women's Preparatory Academy, had a younger brother.

Children's rights attorney Howard Talenfeld, who is representing Nakia's biological mother, said Nakia was the victim of sexual assault during an earlier stay in the foster care system and never received the counseling she needed to deal with the trauma.

The child had more than 10 different foster placements and should have been placed in a foster home that could provide therapy and other services, he said. She was Baker Acted in August.

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"She wasn't supposed to be around the internet," he said. "This was a cry for help."

Those commenting on Nakia's Facebook page said the death was shown on Facebook's popular video live-streaming feature Facebook Live. Although it was a feature Nakia used frequently, a company representative said Tuesday night that she could not confirm that Facebook Live was what she used this time.

In a statement to the Miami Herald provided by spokeswoman Christine Chen, Facebook said the company takes seriously its responsibility to keep people safe on its site. "Our Community Standards regulate what kinds of content can be shared on Facebook. Our teams work around the clock to review content that is being reported by users, and we have systems in place to ensure that time-sensitive content is dealt with quickly.

"The vast majority of people are using Facebook Live to come together and share experiences in the moment with their friends and family," the statement said. "But if someone does violate our Community Standards while using Live, we want to interrupt these streams as quickly as possible when they're reported to us. So we've given people a way to report violations during a live broadcast. We also suggest people contact law enforcement or emergency services themselves if they become aware of something where the authorities can help."

Three weeks before Nakia's death, on Dec. 30, 12-year-old Katelyn Nicole Davis of Cedartown, Ga., killed herself in a 40-minute live video. The video was posted through a site called "" and was taken down by family members as soon as relatives became aware, reported McClatchy, the Herald's parent company. While the video was live, viewers saved versions of it and posted them elsewhere, including on Faceook.

In recent months, two other suicide attempts in France and Thailand were thwarted when viewers alerted police.

The death of Nakia, a Port-au-Prince native who called herself HotHead Nikee on Facebook, drew hundreds of comments expressing shock and offering condolences.

Amid a long string of comments on her Facebook page, one note that appeared to be from Nakia's mother described the teenager's troubled history.

"I was showing you tough love when you misbehaved," the woman wrote.

A video post from Nakia dated Jan. 10 has attracted more than 14,000 views and 104 comments. It has now become a memorial to the teenager, with viewers posting notes such as "RIP to this pretty angel."

At 9:23 p.m. Saturday night, the person using the name of Nakia's mother updated her Facebook cover to a photo of her and Nakia. She commented Monday on the string: "Hours after I posted this, u left me baby girl," followed by four crying emojis.

Miami Herald staffers Lance Dixon, Charles Rabin, Julie K. Brown, Carli Teproff and Adrian Ruhi contributed to this report.