North Carolina authorities are investigating the death of a 10-year-old girl who hanged herself Monday night after repeatedly being bullied at school.
Samantha West said she found her daughter, Jasmine McClain, hanged in her bedroom Monday, November 14, 2011.
“I just lost it because she took her last breath in my arms,” West said Wednesday. “She was a loving child. I just don’t understand.”
Police Chief Steven Shaw said her death was obviously suicide. While investigating the case, he started checking posts on Facebook and other social media about Jasmine and her death.
“Children started coming forward and making accusations that she was bullied – and bullied bad – in school,” Shaw said.
Jasmine was picked on at Chadbourne Elementary School, West said, noting other children teased her about her clothes or her shoes. West said that Jasmine told her that the kids made fun of her shoes being la
st year’s model or that they were dirty. She left the school for a while and dreaded having to return about a month ago, her mother said.
Her Mother never knew how badly Jasmine had been tormented.
“Everyone that we have spoken to, there are little indicators – not huge indications – but small indications that she was not happy,” Shaw said.
State lawmakers passed two anti-bullying laws two years ago. One made online bullying of children a misdemeanor, while the other required school districts to adopt policies to prohibit bullying without specifying the punishment for violators.
Currently, no one has been charged criminally in Jasmine’s death.
Ashley Billasano, a distraught 18 year old high school student with at least 500 TWITTER followers took her life AFTER she sent a series of shocking messages. No one stopped her. No one called the authorities.
“I went to the bathroom and locked the door,” 18-year-old Ashley Billasano tweeted.
“I took apart a razor. I did what I had to do to forget. I swear after that night I was never the same.”
Billasano told her painful story through the popular social networking site, Twitter. Soon after, she had committed suicide.
In her 144 tweets over 6 hours, Billasano allegedly claimed that she had been molested by a family member and forced into prostitution. She also detailed her unsuccessful attempt at seeking justice.
“It is my understanding she made an outcry apparently a year ago in Williamson County up close to Austin about some allegations of sexual abuse,” Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Department Chief Craig Brady told FOX News. “My understanding, that was looked into the sheriff’s office there, the D.A’S office and a grand jury. There was no indictment issued.”
Close friend Ashly Escamilla told the Houston Chronicle that Billasano’s death was the high schooler’s last attempt to be heard.
“This wasn’t random. She planned this for a reason. She made a decision that this was what she was going to do to get attention if she was not going to get justice.”
Billasano’s mother, Tiffany Ruiz Leskinen, told the paper that being denied help from authorities was too much for her daughter to cope with.
“The detective told her that she had trouble believing her,” her mother told the Houston Chronicle. “Here is someone who has been abused and is forced to be silent for so long. Then the one person you go to looking for help says they might not believe you. The CPS caseworker was a rookie right out of college. She did not know anything and kept saying she had to check with her supervisor.”
According to the Austin-Statesman, Billasano’s Twitter account was taken down.
An important question, as ABC news noted, is why none of Billasano’s 500 followers called the police, or reached out to help her.
Some people on Facebook and Twitter are wondering why the media are focusing on the 500 Twitter followers who did not do anything. They feel that Texas Children’s Protective Services did not do their job.
The group administrator of a Facebook group, Stop Mental Child Abuse, posted this: “IT’S NOT ABOUT THE TWEETS, IT’s WHY DIDN’T TEXAS CPS DO SOMETHING? 18 years of reported abused and they did nothing! Media only reports on why didn’t twitter friends do something, but the real story is why didn’t CPS do something in 18 years?”
On her last day Ashley Billasano tweeted ‘Weeks passed, then I got the call. They said sorry but there isn’t enough evidence I hung up.’
‘That’s when I changed. I didn’t care anymore and the people I was meeting gave me no reason to.’
Police said they didn’t want a lot of detail about her death to be published to avoid encouraging copy cats, but said it might not be the first time the teen had tried to take her own life.
Authorities believe this was not the first time she had attempted suicide. She had learned the method on the Internet.
O.J. Simpson’s Suicide Letter
[Letter discovered on June 17, 1994, shortly before Simpson's televised Bronco ride and arrest.]
To whom it may concern: First, everyone understand I have nothing to do with Nicole’s murder. I loved her, always have and always will. If we had a problem, it’s because I loved her so much.
Recently, we came to the understanding that for now we were not right for each other, at least for now. Despite our love we were different, and that’s why we mutually agreed to go our separate ways. It was tough splitting for a second time, but we both knew it was for the best.
Inside I had no doubt that in the future, we would be close as friends or more. Unlike what has been written in the press, Nicole and I had a great relationship for most of our lives together, Like all long-term relationships, we had a few downs and ups. I took the heat New Year’s 1989 because that’s what I was supposed to do. I did not plead no contest for any other reason but to protect our privacy and was advised it would end the press hype.
I don’t want to belabor knocking the press, but I can’t believe what is being said. Most of it is totally made up. I know you have a job to do, but as a last wish, please, please, please, leave my children in peace. Their lives will be tough enough.
I want to send my love and thanks to all my friends. I’m sorry I can’t name every one of you, especially A.C. man, thanks for being in my life. The support and friendship I received from so many: Wayne Hughes, Lewis Markes, Frank Olson, Mark Packer, Bender, Bobby Kardashian.
I wish we had spent more time together in recent years. My golfing buddies, Hoss, Alan Austin, Mike, Craig, Bender, Wyler, Sandy, Jay, Donnie, thanks for the fun. All my teammates over the years, Reggie, you were the soul of my pro career. Ahmad, I never stopped being proud of you. Marcus, You’ve got a great lady in Catherine, don’t mess it up. Bobby Chandler, thanks for always being there. Skip and Kathy, I love you guys, without you I never would have made it through this far. Marguerite, thanks for the early years. We had some fun. Paula, what can I say? You are special. I’m sorry we’re not going to have our chance. God brought you to me I now see. As I leave, you’ll be in my thoughts.
I think of my life and feel I’ve done most of the right things. What the outcome, people will look and point. I can’t take that. I can’t subject my children to that. This way they can move on and go on with their lives. Please, if I’ve done anything worthwhile in my life. Let my kids live in peace from you (press).
I’ve had a good life. I’m proud of how I lived. My mama taught me to do unto other. I treated people the way I wanted to be treated. I’ve always tried to be up and helpful so why is this happening? I’m sorry for the Goldman family. I know how much it hurts.
Nicole and I had a good life together. All this press talk about a rocky relationship was no more than what every long-term relationship experiences. All her friends will confirm that I have been totally loving and understanding of what she’s been going through. At times I have felt like a battered husband or boyfriend but I loved her, make that clear to everyone. And I would take whatever it took to make it work.
Don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve had a great life, great friends. Please think of the real O.J. and not this lost person.
Thanks for making my life special. I hope I helped yours.
Peace and love, O.J. [smiley face inside the O]
Oct 8, 4:01 pm ET
MENTOR, Ohio – Sladjana Vidovic’s body lay in an open casket, dressed in the sparkly pink dress she had planned to wear to the prom. Days earlier, she had tied one end of a rope around her neck and the other around a bed post before jumping out her bedroom window.
The 16-year-old’s last words, scribbled in English and her native Croatian, told of her daily torment at Mentor High School, where students mocked her accent, taunted her with insults like “Slutty Jana” and threw food at her.
It was the fourth time in little more than two years that a bullied high school student in this small Cleveland suburb on Lake Erie died by his or her own hand — three suicides, one overdose of antidepressants. One was bullied for being gay, another for having a learning disability, another for being a boy who happened to like wearing pink.
Now two families — including the Vidovics — are suing the school district, claiming their children were bullied to death and the school did nothing to stop it. The lawsuits come after a national spate of high-profile suicides by gay teens and others, and during a time of national soul-searching about what can be done to stop it.
[Related: School-yard bullying: A survivor's tale]
If there has been soul-searching among the bullies in Mentor — a pleasant beachfront community that was voted one of the “100 Best Places to Live” by CNN and Money magazine this year — Sladjana’s family saw too little of it at her wake in October 2008.
Suzana Vidovic found her sister’s body hanging over the front lawn. The family watched, she said, as the girls who had tormented Sladjana for months walked up to the casket — and laughed.
“They were laughing at the way she looked,” Suzana says, crying. “Even though she died.”
Sladjana Vidovic, whose family had moved to northeast Ohio from Bosnia when she was a little girl, was pretty, vivacious and charming. She loved to dance. She would turn on the stereo and drag her father out of his chair, dance him in circles around the living room.
“Nonstop smile. Nonstop music,” says her father, Dragan, who speaks only a little English.
At school, life was very different. She was ridiculed for her thick accent. Classmates tossed insults like “Slutty Jana” or “Slut-Jana-Vagina.” A boy pushed her down the stairs. A girl smacked her in the face with a water bottle.
Phone callers in the dead of night would tell her to go back to Croatia, that she’d be dead in the morning, that they’d find her after school, says Suzana Vidovic.
“Sladjana did stand up for herself, but toward the end she just kind of stopped,” says her best friend, Jelena Jandric. “Because she couldn’t handle it. She didn’t have enough strength.”
[Related: Cyber-bullying: When enough is enough]
Vidovic’s parents say they begged the school to intervene many times. They say the school promised to take care of her.
She had already withdrawn from Mentor and enrolled in an online school about a week before she killed herself.
When the family tried to retrieve records about their reports of bullying, school officials told them the records were destroyed during a switch to computers. The family sued in August.
Two years after her death, Dragan Vidovic waves his hand over the family living room, where a vase of pink flowers stands next to a photograph of Sladjana.
“Today, no music,” he says sadly. “No smile.”
Eric Mohat was flamboyant and loud and preferred to wear pink most of the time. When he didn’t get the lead soprano part in the choir his freshman year, he was indignant, his mother says.
He wore a stuffed animal strapped to his arm, a lemur named Georges that was given its own seat in class.
“It was a gag,” says Mohat’s father, Bill. “And all the girls would come up to pet his monkey. And in his Spanish class they would write stories about Georges.”
Mohat’s family and friends say he wasn’t gay, but people thought he was.
“They called him fag, homo, queer,” says his mother, Jan. “He told us that.”
Bullies once knocked a pile of books out of his hands on the stairs, saying, “‘Pick up your books, faggot,’” says Dan Hughes, a friend of Eric’s.
Kids would flick him in the head or call him names, says 20-year-old Drew Juratovac, a former student. One time, a boy called Mohat a “homo,” and Juratovac told him to leave Mohat alone.
“I got up and said, ‘Listen, you better leave this kid alone. Just walk away,’” he says. “And I just hit him in the face. And I got suspended for it.”
Eric Mohat shot himself on March 29, 2007, two weeks before a choir trip to Hawaii.
His parents asked the coroner to call it “bullicide.” At Eric’s funeral and after his death, other kids told the Mohats that they had seen the teen relentlessly bullied in math class. The Mohats demanded that police investigate, but no criminal activity was found.
[Related: 6 signs of cyber-bullying and what you can do about it]
Two years later, in April 2009, the Mohats sued the school district, the principal, the superintendent and Eric’s math teacher. The federal lawsuit is on hold while the Ohio Supreme Court considers a question of state law regarding the case.
“Did we raise him to be too polite?” Bill Mohat wonders. “Did we leave him defenseless in this school?”
Meredith Rezak, 16, shot herself in the head three weeks after the death of Mohat, a good friend of hers. Her cell phone, found next to her body, contained a photograph of Mohat with the caption “R.I.P. Eric a.k.a. Twiggy.”
Rezak was bright, outgoing and a well-liked player on the volleyball team. Shortly before her suicide, she had joined the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance and told friends and family she thought she might be gay.
Juratovac says Rezak endured her own share of bullying — “name-calling, just stupid trivial stuff” — but nobody ever knew it was getting to her.
“Meredith ended up coming out that she was a lesbian,” he says. “I think much of that sparked a lot of the bullying from a lot of the other girls in school, ’cause she didn’t fit in.”
Her best friend, Kevin Simon, doesn’t believe that bullying played a role in Rezak’s death. She had serious issues at home that were unrelated to school, he says.
After Mohat’s death, people saw Rezak crying at school, and friends heard her talk of suicide herself.
A year after Rezak’s death, the older of her two brothers, 22-year-old Justin, also shot and killed himself. His death certificate mentioned “chronic depressive reaction.”
This March, her only other sibling, Matthew, died of a drug overdose at age 21.
Their mother, Nancy Merritt, lives in Colorado now. She doesn’t think Meredith was bullied to death but doesn’t really know what happened. On the phone, her voice drifts off, sounding disconnected, confused.
“So all three of mine are gone,” she says. “I have to keep breathing.”
Most mornings before school, Jennifer Eyring would take Pepto-Bismol to calm her stomach and plead with her mother to let her stay home.
“She used to sob to me in the morning that she did not want to go,” says her mother, Janet. “And this is going to bring tears to my eyes. Because I made her go to school.”
Eyring, 16, was an accomplished equestrian who had a learning disability. She was developmentally delayed and had a hearing problem, so she received tutoring during the school day. For that, her mother says, she was bullied constantly.
By the end of her sophomore year in 2006, Eyring’s mother had decided to pull her out of Mentor High School and enroll her in an online school the following autumn. But one night that summer, Jennifer walked into her parents’ bedroom and told them she had taken some of her mother’s antidepressant pills to make herself feel better. Hours later, she died of an overdose.
[Related: Stop bullying by complaining – in writing]
The Eyrings do not hold Mentor High accountable, but they believe she would be alive today had she not been bullied. Her parents are speaking out in hopes of preventing more tragedies.
“It’s too late for my daughter,” Janet Eyring says, “but it may not be too late for someone else.”
No official from Mentor public schools would comment for this story. The school also refused to provide details on its anti-bullying program.
Some students say the problem is the culture of conformity in this city of about 50,000 people: If you’re not an athlete or cheerleader, you’re not cool. And if you’re not cool, you’re a prime target for the bullies.
But that’s not so different from most high schools. Senior Matt Super, who’s 17, says the suicides unfairly paint his school in a bad light.
“Not everybody’s a good person,” he says. “And in a group of 3,000 people, there are going to be bad people.”
StopCyberbulling.org founder Parry Aftab says this is the first time she’s heard of two sets of parents suing a school at the same time for two independent cases of bullying or cyberbullying. No one has been accused of bullying more than one of the teens who died.
Barbara Coloroso, a national anti-bullying expert, says the school is allowing a “culture of mean” to thrive, and school officials should be held responsible for the suicides — along with the bullies.
“Bullying doesn’t start as criminal. They need to be held accountable the very first time they call somebody a gross term,” Coloroso says. “That is the beginning of dehumanization.”
The Police Department Internal Affairs Bureau is investigating how a police security video that captured a young man’s suicide ended up on a Web site devoted to violence and pornography, a department spokesman said yesterday.
The young man, Paris Lane, 22, of Harlem, used a 9-millimeter handgun to kill himself on March 16 in a lobby at the Morris Houses project in the Bronx, where he had been visiting his girlfriend.
His foster mother said yesterday that she had notified the police when she learned the video had been posted on the site.
The 45-second video, which is no longer displayed there, shows Mr. Lane and his girlfriend standing near an open elevator door. She pulls her hands across her face as if wiping away tears and kisses him briefly, then they hug for a long moment, until she gently pulls away and steps into the elevator.
Mr. Lane waits for the elevator door to close, stares at it for a second, then pulls out the gun, puts it in his mouth and fires once, falling to the ground.
The site, Consumption Junction, describes itself this way: ”Sociopathic surfers have declared this free site the best place to get their fix of sick free adult humor, tasteless (but way funny) dirty jokes, and free video clips that include shocking moments, brutal stupidity, and a healthy dose of hardcore sex.”
It says it does not pay for the materials, which are sent in by its users, but it gives an award for one submission each month. The more printable video titles were, ”The Beer Helps You Lower Your Standards a Little” and ”His Air Bags Didn’t Inflate.”
The video of Mr. Lane’s death was labeled ”Introducing: The Self-Cleansing Housing Projects.”
Mr. Lane’s foster mother, Martha Williams, 56, called the Web site racist. She said she began receiving calls on Sunday from people telling her that the video, which does not identify him, was on the Internet. She said she had looked to confirm it was true, but could not watch it.
She went to C. Virginia Fields, the Manhattan borough president, for help. A spokeswoman for Ms. Fields said Ms. Williams had previously asked the police if she could view the video, but had been denied.
Ms. Williams said the video’s appearance on the site ”desecrated” the memory of her son.
”I just started back to work. I started healing, and this kicked me backwards. My whole body was shaking,” she said.
The camera that captured the suicide was part of an extensive police surveillance system that had been installed in 15 of the city’s housing projects, said Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman. It records digital images, which means they could have been easily sent by e-mail, he said. He said the department still had the original compact disk containing the video.
The police were investigating whether someone could have hacked into the system. ”But we’ve never had it happen,” Mr. Browne said.
The department has obtained a subpoena to learn who owns the Web site and will try to learn how the video was obtained. Mr. Browne said he did not know why the video had been removed from the site. It disappeared on Tuesday, a day after Ms. Williams notified Ms. Fields and the police.
In a chat area on the site, members debated whether the video was genuine or staged. ”It’s 100 percent real,” wrote one member, smitty4699. ”I submitted it, I know the cop who was at the scene.”
Mr. Lane had apparently killed himself because he was despondent over his relationship with his girlfriend, Mr. Browne said. He had prior arrests, including one on domestic violence charges, Mr. Browne said.
Ms. Williams had cared for him since he was 11, when his father died of AIDS and his mother entered a drug rehabilitation program. His mother died about six years later, also of AIDS.
In an article about World AIDS Day in 1999, Mr. Lane, then 17, told The Times-Union of Albany that when his mother died, ”That’s when I lost all faith in everything.”
He continued, ”I couldn’t understand why God would take away someone who was trying to make right from wrong.”
CLICK HERE TO SEE THE VIDEO
Lane was an aspiring rapper who used the name Paradice. He hugged a friend goodbye, she gets on an elevator, and he shoots himself. It just happened that it was being captured on video.
There were three closed-circuit cameras in the lobby of 1358 Washington Ave. in the Gouverneur Morris Houses that captured Lane’s final moments. The shocking footage, recorded March 16, shows Paris Lane, 22, embracing a teenage girl as she gets into an elevator, then shoving a gun in his mouth and firing.
The girl, Krystin Simmons, 16, was stunned when her phone began ringing with friends telling her that footage of the tragic last goodbye was being played on the Web. “I gave him a hug and got into the elevator. When the elevator got to the second floor, I heard the shot,” Krystin said.
Rutgers University President Richard McCormick released a statement regarding the suicide of freshman Tyler Clementi, and the charges against his classmates, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei.
Members of the Rutgers Community:
I deeply regret that today we learned from the family of one of our students that they believe their son has committed suicide. We are profoundly saddened by this report, and our hearts and prayers are with the parents, family, and friends of this young man, who had started at Rutgers this semester as a first-year student on the New Brunswick campus.
While there is a lot of information being communicated, we don’t have all the facts in this case.
This young man was reportedly the victim of an incident that took place in one of our residence halls last week.
Two fellow Rutgers students have been arrested and charged with invasion of privacy for their actions in that incident. If the charges are true, these actions gravely violate the university’s standards of decency and humanity.
The case is being investigated by the Rutgers University Police Department. The students—like all who are accused of a crime—must be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The case is also being investigated by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs under the code of student conduct. Please know that while Rutgers does not comment publicly on the specifics of cases involving active criminal investigations and allegations of student conduct, the university is taking this case very seriously.
We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the family during this most difficult time. While I did not have the privilege of knowing this young man, I have learned that in addition to his academic abilities, he was a gifted musician. Our university community feels the pain of his loss, and I know there is anger and outrage about these events.
Rutgers is a community that is extraordinarily proud of its diversity and the respect its members have for one another. In fact, we have just launched a two-year dialogue focusing attention on civility in the context of one of the most culturally and racially diverse research universities in the nation. I ask that all members of the Rutgers community honor the wishes of the family by providing them with privacy during this painful time and by committing to the values of civility, dignity, compassion, and respect for each other.
Richard L. McCormick
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP)– The death of a Rutgers University freshman stirred outrage and remorse on campus from classmates who wished they could have stopped the teen from jumping off a bridge last week after a recording of him having a sexual encounter with a man was broadcast online.
“Had he been in bed with a woman, this would not have happened,” said Lauren Felton, 21, of Warren. “He wouldn’t have been outed via an online broadcast and his privacy would have been respected and he might still have his life.”
Gay rights groups say Tyler Clementi’s suicide makes him a national example of a problem they are increasingly working to combat: young people who kill themselves after being tormented over their sexuality.
A lawyer for Clementi’s family confirmed Wednesday that he had jumped off the George Washington Bridge last week. Police recovered a man’s body Wednesday afternoon in the Hudson River just north of the bridge, and authorities were trying to determine if it was Clementi’s.
The lawyer has not responded to requests for comment on whether Clementi was open about his sexual orientation.
Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, and fellow Rutgers freshman Molly Wei, both 18, have been charged with invading Clementi’s privacy. Middlesex County prosecutors say the pair used a webcam to surreptitiously transmit a live image of Clementi having sex on Sept. 19 and that Ravi tried to webcast a second encounter on Sept. 21, the day before Clementi’s suicide.
A lawyer for Ravi, of Plainsboro, did not immediately return a message seeking comment. It was unclear whether Wei, of Princeton, had retained a lawyer.
Collecting or viewing sexual images without consent is a fourth-degree crime. Transmitting them is a third-degree crime with a maximum prison term of five years.
ABC News and The Star-Ledger of Newark reported that Clementi left on his Facebook page on Sept. 22 a note that read: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” On Wednesday, his Facebook page was accessible only to friends.
Even if the young violinist from Ridgewood was not well known at his new school, his death stirred outrage.
“The notion that video of Tyler doing what he was doing can be considered a spectacle is just heinous,” said Jordan Gochman, 19, of Jackson, who didn’t know Clementi. “It’s intolerant, it’s upsetting, it makes it seem that being gay is something that is wrong and can be considered laughable.”
Other students who did know Clementi were upset that they didn’t do more to help him. “I wish I could have been more of an ally,” said Georges Richa, a freshman from New Brunswick.
About 100 people gathered Wednesday night for a vigil on campus. They lay on the ground and chanted slogans like, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re not going home.”
Several gay rights groups linked Clementi’s death to the troubling phenomenon of young people committing suicide after being harassed over their sexuality.
On Tuesday, a 13-year-old California boy died nine days after classmates found him hanging from a tree. Authorities say other teens had taunted the boy, Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, for being gay.
Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, said in a statement that his group considers Clementi’s death a hate crime.
“We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of a young man who, by all accounts, was brilliant, talented and kind,” Goldstein said. “And we are sickened that anyone in our society, such as the students allegedly responsible for making the surreptitious video, might consider destroying others’ lives as a sport.”
Last week, Dan Savage, a columnist at the Seattle weekly newspaper The Stranger, launched the latest of several efforts to try to stem the problem: the It Gets Better Project, a YouTube channel where gay, lesbian and bisexual adults share the turmoil they experienced when they were younger – and that their lives are better now.
In response to Clementi’s death and other incidents, the group Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays said it would issue a “call to action” on the subject on Thursday.
Rutgers University President Richard McCormick wrote in a letter to the campus, “If the charges are true, these actions gravely violate the university’s standards of decency and humanity.” Coincidentally, the university on Wednesday was launching a new two-year Project Civility, designed to get students thinking about how they treat others.
Meanwhile, for some of Clementi’s new classmates, the first time they learned much about him was when they got word of his death.
“I guess the only person I haven’t talked to is Tyler ’cause he’s like really quiet and shy,” said Justin Lee, a freshman from Princeton who lives on Clementi’s hall.
DeFalco reported from Ridgewood. Associated Press writers Geoff Mulvihill in Haddonfield, Colleen Long in New York and David Porter in Newark contributed to this report.
Categories: Gay Abuse Laws Tags: Clementi, College News, cyberbullying, Dharun Ravi, gay, Gay Teens Suicide, homosexual, invasion of privacy, Molly Wi, Rutgers, Rutgers Suicide, rutgers university, suicide, The Northeast, tyler clementi, Tyler Clementi Dead, Tyler Clementi Death, Tyler Clementi Suicide, Tyler Clementi Video