Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd: Girl was bullied before jumping to her death

LAKELAND, Fla. - Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says a 12-year-old Lakeland girl was a victim of cyberbullying before she climbed a tower at an old cement plant and jumped to her death earlier this week.

Judd spoke with reporters Thursday morning. The body of Rebecca Sedwick was found early Tuesday morning by deputies.

He said the investigation is still in the early stages, adding "We see nothing criminal in our reports."

It started last year when she attended Crystal Lake Middle School. It got so bad she changed schools and received counseling. But the bullies kept at it through social media.

The sheriff said Sedwick skipped school Monday morning and sent a text to an online friend saying she was jumping and couldn't take it anymore.

"At the end of the day it wasn't a school yard fight that led to the demise of this young girl. It was the bullying online," Judd said.

He said Rebecca's mother, Tricia, tried to help her daughter cope with the bullying. "I truly believe Tricia tried." Judd said. "The school system tried."

He also warned against placing blame. "Our job here is not to point fingers back and forth," he said.

Judd said investigators are in the process of trying to unravel texts and social media messages involving Rebecca. He added that detectives are looking at three or four social media sites that Rebecca belonged to and they continue to find evidence of cyber bullying.

Ultimately, Judd said, it's the responsibility of parents to monitor their kids online and to look for warning signs.

ABC Action News reporter Ryan Raiche will have a report today at 5 p.m.

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The mother of the 12-year-old Lakeland girl found dead early Tuesday morning, said her daughter was recently the victim of bullying.

Investigators found the body of Rebecca Sedwick at an old cement plant around 2 a.m. Tuesday. They have not released the official cause of death, but her mother said officials told her it's probably suicide.

"Nobody deserves this," said Tricia Norman, Rebecca's mother.

Norman saw her daughter leave for the bus stop on Monday, but later learned she never made it on the bus and left all her books at home. She filed a missing person's report Monday night.

She told ABC Action News that her daughter was coming off a rough year.

"She was being bullied really bad last year at Crystal Lake Middle School. It got so bad that girls were jumping her at school," she said.

Norman said she filed a complaint with the district, and transferred her to a new school, but recently she said the bullying picked up on social media, with comments like "just go die."

"Kids need to know when they talk to people the way that they do and tell somebody that they're ugly, or that they should go kill themselves, they need to take it more serious, because somebody might listen," Norman said.

A spokesman for the Polk County School District would not confirm whether any complaints were filed, but released the following statement:

"This is an ongoing investigation. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family," said Julie Togba, district spokesman.

Coincidentally on Monday, a Lakeland student kicked off his national bullying campaign at Crystal Lake Middle School, where Rebecca's mother says she was picked on last year.

"Most heartbreaking thing as a mom is I couldn't do anything to stop it," she said. "I didn't know anything about it."

The Polk County Sheriff's Office plans to release the cause of death after the medical examiner completes an autopsy.

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