MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Authorities say they won’t file charges in the suicide of a 13-year-old girl in southeastern Minnesota whose parents say she was bullied.
The Dodge County sheriff’s office issued a statement Wednesday saying “harassment and bullying were likely factors” in the death of Rachel Ehmke of rural Mantorville on April 28. Her death prompted an outpouring of grief and much discussion about the problem of bullying, including a front-page editorial in The Post-Bulletin of Rochester headlined, “Please, can we stop it?”
But the statement said investigators found no specific incident or action by any particular student they believe was responsible for the seventh-grader’s death. Because of that, the county attorney’s office decided there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone.
Rachel’s father, Rick Ehmke, of Mantorville, said he was initially stunned when he learned prosecutors had decided against charging any of the teens who allegedly bullied his daughter. But he said charges wouldn’t bring her back, and that the guilt they should be feeling might be punishment enough. He said he’d like to see them now become champions of the anti-bullying movement.
“These girls, they’re going to have to live with this their whole lives and unless there’s something really wrong inside their heads, they’re going to carry a heavy burden for a long time, and that’s charges enough,” Ehmke said.
Investigators also determined it was likely Rachel who sent a derogatory text message about herself to several students at Kasson-Mantorville Middle School two days before her death. The message urged students to forward it to others as a way of driving her out of the school. A police officer questioned her about the message the day before she died. Authorities later determined the text originated from her father’s house “and possibly from Rachel herself.”
Sheriff’s investigators said they found no suicide note or any specific indication from Rachel in a search of her mother’s house that explained why she chose to kill herself.
“Rachel’s family indicated that she was upset about the text message being investigated and she mentioned wanting to change schools. The family said that Rachel had been dealing with on-going bullying in school for several months,” the statement from the Douglas County sheriff’s office said.
It continued: “Due to there being no suicide note left, we can only speculate as to her motivation for sending this message out. We did receive information that she had been talking to friends about trying to transfer out of (her school) because of problems she had been having there and had mentioned this to her parents.”
Ehmke said he believes his daughter’s decision to send the anonymous text was just another effort to switch schools and get away from the kids who had been bullying her at least since last October. He said Rachel texted him the night before she died and was adamant that she was not going back to school the next Monday. He said he told her they would discuss that when her mother returned from an out-of-state trip, but they never got the chance.
The sheriff’s office also decried “a rush to judgment” about other teens whom some people blamed for the text message. It said several students and even some parents had been “singled out, harassed and bullied” over the incident, and that those who targeted them risk being charged if they continue.
The investigation remains open pending final autopsy results.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)