Police say Florida teen Jessica Laney hung herself after being relentlessly bullied on social media web site Ask.fm, which has been linked to similar deaths of teens.
The 16-year-old soccer player maintained a popular blog on Tumblr as well as a presence on Ask.fm, where users can ask people questions anonymously.
Valerie Canales, who calls Laney a friend, said people used the Ask.fm format to bully the teen, according to the ABC affiliate in Tampa Bay
. One user posted “Can you kill yourself already?” but it appears the comment has been deleted. Another user asked what she thought about suicide.
Thousands of people have signed a change.org petition to take down the website in wake of the tragedy and more than 1,600 people have “Liked” a Facebook page created in her memory.
Ask.fm has more than 20 million members and was linked to the deaths of two teenagers in Ireland earlier this year, according to the Daily Mail.
While some of the comments appear to be harmless on Laney’s account — like Jessicamarieee1, asking questions about her boyfriend and giving her positive affirmations like “you’re beautiful” and “yourrr perfect” — others are offensive, calling her fat. One says “nobody even cares about you.”
To the poster asking about suicide, Laney responded: “If you ever feel this low i just wanna say it's not your fault. People are mean. I know you feel useless broken not wanted and alone. i was there. But i promise you it will get better. You will learn not to care.”
Officials say Laney, from Hudson, which is near Tampa, died by hanging on Sunday night. The case is classified as a suicide while the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate the events that led to her death.
Poster Tonia Tipton said Laney transferred to Fivay High School in Pasco County due to bullying at another school.
Though her friend Canales speculates that cyber-bullying caused Laney to reach her breaking point, an official from the sheriff’s office told ABC that neither Laney’s parents nor Laney’s boyfriend were aware of any bullying in her life.
“Our thoughts and prayers go to the Jessica Marie Laney’s family as they deal with their loss. (Pasco County Sheriff’s Office) is not aware of any formal complaint to the Pasco School District or PSO about her being bullied,” said Doug Tobin, Public Information Officer for the sheriff’s office.
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