Some 250 mourners thronged a funeral service Monday for a 12-year-old central Florida girl who authorities say committed suicide after being bullied online by several girls for nearly a year.
Many of those thronging the 45-minute service for Rebecca Sedwick in Bartow wore T-shirts with an anti-bullying slogan in neon green, the girl's favorite color. Family members, who knew the girl as "Becca," had asked mourners to wear colorful clothing.
Sheriff's detectives say the girl was "terrorized" by as many as 15 girls who ganged up on her and picked on her for months through online message boards and texts. Authorities say they are investigating whether there is enough evidence to bring charges against any of the girls.
The bullying began over a "boyfriend issue" and some of the girl's entries in her diaries found at home "would break your heart," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. He said she talked of how depressed she had become. Last Monday, authorities said, she climbed to a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and hurled herself to her death.
Photos of Rebecca Sedwick were displayed on monitors in the funeral home, and poster boards filled with pictures of her and her family stood at the entrance to the funeral home Monday. Her body was in a closed white casket with flowers on top. A sign by the casket read: "Everyday, more and more kids kill themselves because of bullying. How many lives have to be lost until people realize words do matter?"
Several young girls cried as they listened to the two speakers at the funeral. None of the girl's friends or family spoke - but music with somber lyrics preceded the service, including "Why," By Rascal Flatts, "Concrete Angel," by Martina McBride and "Arms of the Angel."
"Something like this cuts our legs out from under us," Pastor Eddie Owen told the mourners. "We've got more questions than answers."
Owen urged the girl's family to cherish the happy memories - like how Rebecca loved to dance and make up different moves - and lean on their faith to face the difficult months ahead.
"There's grief, there's hurt, there's anger and there's guilt," Owen said. "You're going to have to deal with those things in the coming days. Do not let them master you."
Fundraisers were held over the weekend to help Rebecca's family cover funeral expenses. She leaves behind a mother, father, stepfather, six sisters, three brothers and grandparents - along with many cousins, aunts and uncles.
After the suicide, police looked at the girl's computer and found search queries such as "what is overweight for a 13-year-old girl," ''how to get blades out of razors," and "how many over-the-counter drugs do you take to die." One of her screensavers also showed Rebecca with her head resting on a railroad track.
Authorities have seized computers and cellphones from some of the girls as they decide whether to bring charges. The parents of the other girls were cooperating with authorities.