A 10-year-old girl hung herself in her bedroom closet this weekend after schoolchildren bullied her for months. An 18-year-old girl committed suicide last week after posting 144 tweets that revealed years of abuse and bullying.
Who is to blame?
"I don't know what was so bad she couldn't wait." ~Lori Hackney
10-year-old Ashlynn Conner’s family was home the night she hung herself with a scarf in her bedroom closet. They hadn’t seen her for a couple hours.
Ashlynn’s older sister, Michaila Baldwin, 15, went looking for her and found her in the bedroom, unresponsive. Ashlynn’s grandmother, Lori Hackney, tried unsuccessfully to revive her with CPR. They took her body to the emergency room where she was pronounced dead.
“I don’t know what was so bad she couldn’t wait,” Hackney told the News-Gazette, adding that Ashlynn was excited about turning 11 and celebrating Thanksgiving.
"She just loved the holidays and any occasion where there would be a big family gathering,” Hackney said.
People close to Ashlynn said she had been bullied at school for years. When she was 7, she got a bob haircut. Kids called her a boy. Over the next three years, she would be called a slut, fat and ugly.
On the day she committed suicide, Ashlynn reportedly told her parents that three girls had been bullying her all day.
Her family described Ashlynn as bubbly, but sensitive. The abuse was mostly verbal, but her mother told the News-Gazette that maybe it “all just got to her.”
18-year-old Ashley Billasano’s abuse was verbal and physical.
Billy, as friends and family knew her, was a Texas high school honors student. She claimed via Twitter that she had been raped and forced into prostitution since the age of 14. She told her parents, authorities and school officials about the abuse and an investigation was commissioned.
Constant bullying and verbal abuse led Ashley to bulimia and self-mutilation. The abuse was allegedly conducted by a person who “was supposed to be the very one to protect her."
Child Protective Services ran a 5-month investigation into the claims of abuse. The outcome of the investigation did not satisfy Ashley.
“Weeks passed, then I got the call. They said sorry, but there isn't enough evidence. I hung up.” ~Ashley Billasano
Tiffany Ruiz Leskinen, Ashley’s mother, blames authorities for the suicide.
"It was almost as if (case officials) were treating her like she was the one under investigation instead of her being the victim. She felt like they were really insensitive to what had gone on," Leskinen told CNN.
"They say that they did what they could to protect her, but they let her back into the home where she was abused," she said.
Ashley was not living with her mother at the time of her suicide. The alleged perpetrator of the abuse is a “family member,” according to authorities. It is not known why Ashley could not return to live with her mother.
Among her 144 tweets, was one particularly damning message to the people whom she trusted to bring justice. “They said sorry but there isn’t enough evidence,” the tweet read, referring to authorities calling her to tell her that an investigation did not yield enough evidence to pursue a conviction.
District Attorney Dayna Blazey told CNN that a criminal case has not been ruled out.
"The status of the case is that it's still open; it's still pending. At this point, what we have to do is we have to go back and we have to look at the evidence that we have in this case, in light of knowing that Ashley is not going to be available to testify," Blazey said.
"I thought my kids were strong." ~Stacy Connor
When Ashlynn came home from school last Thursday night she asked her mother if she could be home-schooled.
Later that night, Ashlynn reportedly called a friend and cried about her mother’s decision to keep her in school. She hung herself the next day – a day she had off from school for Veteran’s Day.
Ashlynn had been complaining to her mother for two weeks about bullying that had escalated at the school. Her mother told Ashlynn on Thursday that she would talk to school officials after the weekend.
"I thought my kids were strong, that my words to them for guidance and advice would have more weight than what these kids were saying,” Stacy Connor, Ashlynn’s mother, told WCIA-TV. “I was wrong."
Unlike Ashley, Ashlynn did not leave a note or record of her decision.
“I’d love to hear what you have to say.” ~Ashley Billasano
Ashley Billisano had more than 500 followers on her Twitter account on the night she committed suicide.
Ashlynn Conner’s entire family was home the night she committed suicide.
Both schools have expressed their deep sympathies to the families.
Both local law enforcement agencies and hired attorneys are looking into legal action.
The people who tormented these girls will remember her to relative degrees throughout their lives. The public will place this on a long list of punctual tragedies and soon forget it.
“I’d love to hear what you have to say,” Ashley’s last tweet read. “But I won’t be around.”