Sheriff Would Arrest Cyberbully Suspect's Parents If He Could

Rebecca Sedwick jumped from a concrete silo tower to her death Sept. 9.

ByABC News
October 17, 2013, 2:16 AM

Oct. 17, 2013— -- Florida officials are still actively investigating the parents of a teenage girl accused of cyberbullying Rebecca Sedwick to suicide, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.

"If I could, they would already be in jail," Judd told ABC News Wednesday. "But I can tell you this, that we're keeping our options open."

The charge would be "contributing to the delinquency of a minor," the sheriff said.

Sheriff: Suicide of Girl, 12, 'Broke My Heart'

Two girls, ages 12 and 14, were arrested earlier this week and charged with felony aggravated stalking for leading the digital torment against the 12-year-old Rebecca, police said. She jumped from a concrete silo tower to her death Sept. 9.

Meanwhile, the parents of the two suspects and school officials bare the bulk of responsibility, Rebecca's mother said.

"I would rather see the parents and administrators behind bars, and see the kids get help they need," Tricia Norton of Lakeland, Fla., told ABC News Wednesday.

The parents of the older suspect monitored their daughter's Facebook activities nightly and saw no signs of bullying, leading them to believe someone hacked her account, they told ABC News Tuesday night.

Sheriff Judd doesn't buy their story and accused the older suspect of gloating on Facebook after the suicide about bullying Rebecca.

Parents of Alleged Cyberbully Blame Facebook Hack

"Yeah, that's baloney. Those parents haven't cared from the very beginning," Judd said. "After this initial event, after the initial interviews, why did they let her stay on Facebook any longer?"

Judd said he's only investigating the older suspect's parents, whom he described as being "in denial."

"When the parents don't take care of the children and it becomes criminal conduct, then it becomes my responsibility, and my deputies and I know how to take control," Judd said.

The younger suspect's parents "are remorseful, and they see the big picture. They recognize that was a major malfunction. They care," Judd said.

The sheriff released the names and mug shots of the accused juveniles earlier this week to send a message to others in the community about cyberbullying. ABC News is not revealing either girl's identity because they have been charged as juveniles.

Rebecca was bullied online for 10 months and Norton said her daughter had been physically attacked five times before that, police say. Eventually, Norton pulled Rebecca from Crystal Lake Middle School in Lakeland to end the bullying and keep her daughter away from the two suspects, who also attended classes there.

"I made several, several reports to the school. I did an online bullying report because I thought nothing was being done by the school. And nothing was being done on that either," Norton said.

Polk County school officials refused to comment when asked about Norman's allegations, but they told ABC News that progress on bullying is being made.

"We have seen an increase in the reporting of bullying," Polk Schools Assistant Superintendent Nancy Woolcock said."Parents seem to be paying attention now."

One mother who has a child attending Crystal Lake Middle School said bullying should not be tolerated under any circumstance.

"We don't need no more lives taken. One time is enough. Zero tolerance is zero tolerance," the unidentified mother said.

But even after Rebecca left the school for a fresh start this fall, her tormentors continued their assault online, police said. She jumped to her death at an abandoned concrete plant.

"When I stood there at the base of that cement tower, and saw that baby, that 12-year-old, deceased on the ground, it broke my heart and I know it would break the hearts of everyone else across the country if they were in the position I was in," Judd told "Good Morning America" Wednesday.

Rebecca would have celebrated her 13th birthday this weekend.

The 12-year-old suspect told them she bullied Rebecca and expressed remorse, Police said. She was released into her parents' custody and has been placed on home detention, pending further proceedings.

The older suspect remains in the juvenile wing of the Polk County Jail until her arraignment Oct. 25.