OCALA, Fla. - Rachel Wade's home is the Lowell Correctional Institution for Women. Her 21st birthday was spent behind bars and that's where she will celebrate the next 20.
Even though she is behind bars, she hopes her story will help some other young girl. "I think (it would help), if they would listen. But when I was younger I did not listen to anything."
Her story is about teenage love. But the relationship was played out in text messages and social media web sites. A war of words that ended with a deadly street-side show down.
One night in April 2009, a year of internet battle ended in 5 seconds when Wade, 19 years old at the time, stabbed and killed her romantic rival, 18-year-old Sarah Ludemann. She learned of what happened during an interrogation with police the same night.
In a video recording of the interrogation, a detectives tells Wade, "There is something you need to know, Rachel. Sarah is dead."
Wade can be seen breaking down and sobbing uncontrollably. "Oh my god! I just wanted them to leave me alone!" She cried. Tears streamed down her face as she bowed her head. "I just did not want them to terrorize me anymore. They followed me everywhere. They come to my job. They come to my house. Oh my God!"
Now Wade is in prison, after a jury took about three hours to convict her of second degree murder.
"I always think of what I could have done differently," said Wade. "I could have tried to approach her and tell her it's not me it is not you -- it's him.
Both girls were engaged in a vicious internet battle over another teenager, Joshua Camacho. She now realizes he did not deserve her love and Sarah didn't either. "No, none of us."
But, Wade explained, it was easy for both girls to fight over him. A fight where fists weren't needed.
"You can hide behind technology. You can be a whole other person. It's almost like you can threaten something or say whatever you want and possibly scare them and you don't have to face them at that moment."
Her defense attorney, Jay Hebert agreed. He has poured hours into this case, many hours that he never billed the family because he is deeply affected by what happened.
"To me they were both children. Their lives did not need to be devastated or destroyed."
Hebert has been a lawyer for 21 years. But his most important job is being a father to two children, a girl and a boy. He said not only was his client's life changed forever so was his.
"Over the years, there are cases that hit home," said Hebert. "But I believe in my practice, I never had a case that hit home harder. This is such a tragic tale of two lives that became intertwined and both lives and both families completely devastated."
"If there is any good that can come out of this tragic situation, hopefully we will help educate other parents about the dangers and the risks of social networks," he said.
Hebert is putting his words into action. He prepares not only legal briefs but bullet point presentations on cyber dangers. "When kids text the number 9, that means parents are watching."
He spends his own time not only in a courtroom but a classroom. Hebert has visited numerous schools and plans on visiting many more.
"I believe strongly it is a two-step process. We spend about 45 minutes with the parents and then we spend about 45 minutes with the kids and we are hoping to enlighten both sets."
Hebert feels, much like a D.A.R.E. program, a cyber program should be in place beginning in middle school.
"Our children are the Christopher Columbus' of the new world. Nothing has changed so dramatically as what our generation of kids are facing today, and that is because of the internet and the explosion of the internet. This, I think, is an epidemic. With the explosion of the internet, the instant communication, our children have the inability to communicate with each other to try and sit down and have a conversation."
He feels all parents should learn as much as they can about social networking. "I think as parents we have to take responsibility for the world as we see it today and that world is exploding."
One of his best tips is to charge all computer equipment in their bedrooms so kids don't have access to them all night long. He wants to make a difference. He wants to prevent what he calls another tragedy.
"There is nothing we can do to turn back the clock, there is nothing we can do to change what happened, but hopefully we can educate -- with Rachel's help -- other parents and keep this from happening to another set of parents."
Wade is grateful for Hebert.
"I am lucky to see my parents. It could have been me. And, like I said I would take it back if I could but I am still here and I am going to get out one day, so I try to stay as positive as I can.
Behind bars with her attorney's help, Wade hopes someone will listen and not end up like her, a young woman who will grow up in prison.
Next: A transcript of the interview with Rachel Wade
TRANSCRIPT OF RACHEL WADE INTERVIEW:
Sarina: I would imagine you would do anything to take back that
Sarina: Do you have an apology to the Ludemman's?
Wade: I tried to apologize to them the best I could there are not really words to say for that because I could not imagine my parents in the same situation. But. I kind of wish in a way they had an understanding that it was kind of two sided and for them to know that was never my intention at all. I tired to avoid it as much as I could and it blew out of proportion that night. It was unexpected.
Sarina: You feel it would not have gotten to that point if it
wasn't for Facebook or texting?
Wade: Yeah because that was our really our only way to contact each other. Her coming to my job we really did not talk. Occasionally, she would bump into me and make comments but it was never directly towards each other. It was never a big confrontation. It was verbal and she would leave other than that I never really saw her. That kind of instigated it also. The pictures and the comments all came from things he would say and do so it was almost like ha ha I am with him now and it seemed like it was going back and forth constantly.
Sarina: Do you see a light at the end of the tunnel?
Wade: I see it as I am lucky to see see my parents. It could have ben me. And, like I said I would take it back if I could but I am still here and I am going to get out one day so I try to stay as positive as i can
Sarina: When your parents come to see you, are they emotional?
Wade: Not so much my dad but my mom when she says bye
Sarina: They are trying for an appeal
Wade: Yes. I am hopeful for an appeal
Sarina: Why are you hopeful? Do you think perhaps people do not
understand all the ramifications of this technology?
Wade: There are a lot of people since I have been in jail and since I came to prison that I don't even know or have even spoken to. I have no idea who they are. They are all from all different states that have watched my trial and they kind of make me feel better about it and reassure me that there are people out there who believe that it was two sided and it wasn't intentional. So, I try to think about it that way.
Sarina: And that is what helps you hold on to hope?
Sarina: Are you surprised at the attention?
Wade: Yes. To me well to me it seems like it happens everyday and it is a different situation. It needs to be put out there. I think that is why they are pretty much putting it out there because kids do it everyday girls especially fight everyday. Girls are just caddy and petty these days. I was nothing like I expected to be it was like a whole other side when I got into an argument with somebody. I really did try to avoid it because it was not my personality and not the way I was raised to be --but girls can be really nasty.
Sarina: Despite your parents doing everything right. You still
feel this could happen?
Wade: It could happen to anyone. Because as much as my parents tired to do I rebelled on everything pretty much
Sarina: You have said you thought this was two sided. Yet, you
also feel that you owe an apology to the Ludemann family.
Wade: I can't say that I could have avoided it because I continued to see him. But I could have stopped seeing him. You know not text her not play into it because it went on for a year. And at the beginning I played into it. I was playing the same game she was playing. I put up pictures. I let her know just as much as she let me know that he was seeing the both of us. I could have tried.
I always think of what I could have done differently. I could have tried to approach her and tell her it not me it is not you -- it's him.
But I avoided it all together at one point and time I think that is why it went to where it went. I do not think they (the Ludemann family) understand. They say I hated her, I never knew her to hate her. And I think
they think I had the intent to go after her and that I hated her. I do not want them to think like that. More so I want them to have an understanding
Sarina: Was she also harassing you in these e-mails and these
Wade: Yes. Her dad actually showed up at the scene. I look at it on how my parents would have viewed the whole situation and they would be on my side regardless. But, parents know more about you than you think, they knew about my relationships
I think they knew what her relationship was like. For instance, she was out at 12 o'clock at night. I know they know in the back of their minds, but I still think they want to put all the blame on me. I wish they would see, all the papers and media said we had a lot in common. I am not a bad kid like everybody makes it out to be
Sarina: Do you think they forgive you?
Wade: Not yet. I think they might and I think they might come to some type of understanding that it was two sided and it wasn't meant to happen that way. But i don't think they do yet.
Sarina: Do you think you deserve their forgiveness?
Wade: I want it, I feel I deserve it because I know what happened that night but until they come to that understanding I don't know.
I wrote them a letter that I read at my trial. I did not think until the very last moment that I could read it. Then I did not think I could look them in the eye when I read it. But, I did. I was hoping that would show them something. But I don't know.
I do not know if she (Mrs. Ludemann) is hateful towards me or if she sees it as remorse and the fact that I could look at them maybe she sees that it was not intended I don't know
Sarina: I know you have a warning, but all this technology is
all around. How could a young person avoid the temptation of
Wadde: They have to be smarter and see it from an outside point of view like if you watch your friends. I have watched plenty of my friends go through it . I have seen them fight and a lot of times it doesn't boil down to a fight. You just have to know not to stoop to that level because it seems to be that's all girls do anymore. They text the other girl more than they do their boyfriend. They put more into arguments in other people that the people they real care about. I think you have to learn to let those things go because really it does nothing good for you.
I just want it to be known that its an everyday thing on my mind.
I think about it and its something I have to try and hide. If I would speak up if I could. I would I am glad Jay is doing that because the message needs to get out. I know most teenage girls won't listen but if they look at the situation and hear my story I think it might help them. It might put a little fear in them it's not really a good feeling it might make them avoid the situation and value themselves more and realize that is not what they need I apologize to their family and I hope one day they will forgive me and have an understanding for the whole situation
Sarina: Hearing that your attorney is going to all these schools
and talking to them about the dangers of social media, What is your
reaction to that?
Wade: I think it is a good thing because I can not go out and do it at this moment and I think it will get the message out to people.
Sarina: If you could go out and do it what would you say?
Wade: I would just let them know, relationships really, they way I feel about it is if you are not respected enough you do not need to be with that person. Girls are not respected especially these days. They need to understand that relationships at that age really are not worth it. It just blows out of proportion.
Sarina: Explain to me again about the technology aspect. I am of
the older generation. Why is it worse with social media and
Wade: because you can hid behind technology you can be a whole other person . It's almost like you can threaten something or say whatever you want and possibly scare them and you don't have to face them a that moment.
Sarina: In your particular situation what was going on? How bad
did it get was it a technology war?
Wade: It was constant for about a year actually. There were a couple times she would come and taunt me at work but it was mainly text messages, myspace e-mails.
Sarina: Rachel is it hard for you to imagine that all of that
led to that horrible night?
Wade: It was kind of unexpected because it had not been going on for a couple of months. Me and him (Joshua Camacho) had an understanding that nothing else was going to happen between us. We really did not have a friendship. I had tried to date somebody else that did not work out so I was just hanging out with friends working. All of a sudden one night when I was out with friends he decided to ask if he could spend the night. I viewed it as he wanted to get back in with me in order to get my money because that is what he told people that I worked and i was independent so he wanted to use me for what I had. I told him no but I think it progressed from there. I don't know if she saw text messages between the two of us or not but she kind of just lost it.
Sarina: So she thought perhaps that you to were getting back together?
Wade: I think she was shocked that he was talking to me again and she thought it was more on my half than his, just as I did when I was with him. I believed he did no wrong so I think that is how she saw it that I tried contacting him and tried to get him to spend the night.
Sarina: Did he deserve your love?
Wade: No none of us
Sarina: When did you realize that?
Wade: I broke up with probably three months prior to it and I realized it then. I still kind of wanted a friendship with him and was hurt over it but I had not tried to keep one because he continued to do what he was doing."
Sarina: Rachel, what is your message?
Wade: Girls need to get what they deserve. If someone can't love them or respect them as who they are and only be with them then they don't need to worry about the situation They need to go ahead and be by themselves or find a new relationship.
Sarina: Do you have some warnings about technology?
Wade: My biggest thing is not to threaten people, because I personally can not believe some of the things I said in a text message or e-mail it is not like me
You say things when you get mad you do not realize how serious it is and it is kind of what got me here.
Sarina: What kind of things did you say?
Wade: I threatened her. I specifically told her one night that I was going to kill her when I was intoxicated, we were texting back and forth. I said it over a voicemail actually and it played in court.
Sarina: Did you mean it?
Wade: No, I never really took any of that seriously. I never thought I would be confronted with the situation where we would actually fight because It was usually at my job and I knew she would not put herself into a situation to get in trouble like that.
Sarina: When you saw your parents in court, and I know they were
a united front, did it just break your heart to see them to? I am a
mom, and I know parents would do anything in the whole wide world
to prevent this from happening.
Wade: Yes. What hurts me most is what my mom especially is going through.
Sarina: Do you think your story can help another girl out there?
Wade: I think if they would listen, but when I was younger I did not listen to anything. So it just depends on who it is and what kind of situation they are in. You have got to kind of learn on your own and my parents always told me that. I am learning the hardest way possible
Sarina: Because your parents did try to teach you the right
Wade: Yeah, they told me all the time that I was pretty, that I was smart, that I deserved so much better but I kept going for the same type of guys.,
Sarina: Why didn't you listen
Wade: I think the first relationship I was in I was so attached. It was so new to me. I was all over him and thought he was everything. Then after that I went after the same thing and fell into the same pattern it was just what I was used to.
Sarina: When you were in court and when you heard the verdict
what was going through your mind:
Wade: I kind of expected it but I was worried about my parents and how they were feeling because I heard my mom gasp for air.
I thought that there was a possibility that I could go home, but then there were the voicemail's and everything. Then I looked at the situation if I was on the other side or if the jurors had kids how they might feel about it I thought it was a good chance that it was going to be guilty. When did you come to that conclusion, after the phone call played? Pretty much and when the evidence came out.
I heard all my family break down pretty much. But, I mainly heard my mom and it just hit me.
Sarina: When you say it hit you, what hit you?
Wade: How bad it was hurting everybody. Her parents also. I am not going to say they were happy. I don't know what they were feeling exactly.
I knew what to expect, but when I heard my parents it hurt me more than anything. I was not really thinking how long I was going to get or anything like that.
Sarina: So hearing the verdict and the realization that you were
coming here and knowing how your parents were reacting to it, that
is what hurt you the most?