The only contact 15-year-old Wayne Treacy had ever had with 8th grader Josie Lou Ratley before allegedly beating her nearly to death Wednesday was a brief flurry of text messages earlier that day, Florida police say.
Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti told ABC News that eyewitnesses report Treacy didn't utter a word as he kicked the 15-year-old girl repeatedly with his steel-toed boots, "in the head, soccer style," until a teacher eventually pried him off.
"I think this is probably the first case of 'text rage' we've ever seen. We've had road rage before, but never text rage," said Lamberti.
Ratley was hospitalized with severe head injuries, and Treacy, who confessed the beating to police, has been charged with premeditated attempted murder. A hearing in Fort Lauderdale today will determine whether or not to try Treacy as an adult.
"She's in an induced coma -- part of her skull has been removed to allow the swelling in her head to go down, and she's black and blue from head to toe," Ratley family lawyer Rick Friedman said at a press conference today.
Another girl, 13, is also being held in juvenile detention connection with the incident and could be charged with accessory to attempted murder, according to the sheriff's office.
The message that allegedly triggered such fury in Treacy, a 9th grader at Deerfield Beach High School who authorities say had no previous record, involved a comment Ratley reportedly made about Treacy's 28 year-old brother, who committed suicide last October.
Treacy found his older brother hanging from a tree outside a local church, said public defender Betsy Benson, who is representing Treacy.
Text Message Leads to Violent Attack
According to Treacy's confession and eyewitness testimony, Wednesday's events began when Treacy's 13-year-old girlfriend, who doesn't own a cell phone, used Ratley's phone to text Treacy, a 9th grader with a mop of brown hair covering his eyes.
Ratley frowned upon Treacy's relationship with the girl because of their age difference, according to Lamberti, and she sent Treacy a text message voicing her disapproval.
During an ensuing text exchange, the tenor of the messages became increasingly heated, Lamberti said, culminating in Ratley's message about Treacy's brother.
Treacy then dashed off a final text, telling Ratley, "I'm going to snap your neck," according to the sheriff's office, which has asked the phone company for the exact messages.
Treacy then pulled on his steel-toed boots and rode his bicycle to the Deerfield Beach Middle School to meet with his girlfriend, who allegedly identified Ratley, wearing a red shirt and a black backpack, standing in a crowd at the school bus loop.
According to the sheriff's office, Treacy pounced.
"He slammed this girl's head into the concrete, then he started kicking her and punching her in the neck," one student told ABC affiliate WPLG. Another student recalled watching a puddle of blood form around the teenage girl's head.
Investigators say neither Treacy, nor Ratley, who students said loved art class and reading her books, had ever had disciplinary problems.
Last November a group of teens from Treacy's high school, Deerfield Beech High, set 15-year-old Michael Brewer on fire over a dispute about a stolen video game. Brewer suffered burns to 80 percent his body. Three of the teens were charged as adults.