(WVVA) Tazewell County Sheriff Brian Hieatt is asking the public to not rush to judgement in the wake of a student’s apparent suicide.
Kayla Hodges, 15, of Bandy, VA was a 10th grade student at Richlands High School. She died on Monday.
Investigators have found evidence of online bullying with “people located in various parts of the United States.” A fake social media account pretending to be Kayla was also discovered.
Sheriff Hieatt vows to prosecute anyone if it is proven their cyberbullying had any part in Kayla’s death.
Read the full statement below:
“As most of you know we are currently investigating a case involving the death of a young women from Bandy. My department and I are continuing to pray for her family during this difficult time. Normally I do not release information about an open investigation, especially within the first few days, but I have received numerous calls of concern from citizens in the community about the circumstances surrounding this tragedy. I sincerely ask the public not to make any rushed judgements as to the events that led up to her death. I have a team of deputies and detectives who are diligently working on the collection and preservation of evidence and are conducting interviews with friends and family. They have also been working with Richlands High School and the Richlands Police Department on gathering information. However, what we have collected so far has opened a door into incidents of online bullying that may have been occurring with people located in various parts of the United States. This cyber-bullying included a fake social media account pretending to be her, among other things that were happening online. Regardless of where in the United States these people may live, if we are able to prove that these on-line acts had any part in her death then they will be prosecuted. As with cases like this -all other aspects of this young girl’s life will be examined as part of this investigation including mental and physical problems, home situations, and past incidents that might have been a part of her death.
Children go through many challenges’ in today’s world. They are exposed to so many things that have a negative impact on their lives. I have decided to release this information in order to stop all of the speculation and conjecture regarding this incident. Social Media is a powerful tool and can easily sway a community with false or misleading information.”
“As the investigation continues we ask that if anyone has any information on anything that had been occurring in the life of Kayla Hodges to please contact Sergeant Mike Hall at 276-988-1157. Thank you for your time and please remember to pray for all the children in our county that God is with them in the things they battle each day at home, school, and in the community.”
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)