By Steve McConnell (Staff Writer)
April 3, 2011
When Lennell Blackwell saw her 16-year-old daughter’s suicide note on Facebook, she knew she had lost a piece of her heart that would never come back again.
Posted just mere minutes before she attempted to take her own life on Tuesday by jumping off a South Scranton bridge only a short distance from their home, it read:
“If You Got An I Love You, Know That It Means You Meant Something To Me. I’m Sorry I Disappointed You All Especially FAMILY I must Go Now, I Am A Disgrace, Love You All. GOODBYE!”
“Your heart is gone … a piece of you just leaves,” said Blackwell, 50, in an interview with Times-Shamrock newspapers. “This could have been prevented. She was being terrorized. I’m really, really angry for this even happening.”
Blackwell and authorities say it may have happened because of social media.
While Blackwell said her daughter has been the target of severe torment and bullying in and out of school over the past two months by a small group of teenagers, the trigger may have been when the harassment seeped onto the pages of Facebook.
Scranton police are investigating “inappropriate” messages posted on the girl’s Facebook page that have been cited as a contributing factor in the attempted suicide on Tuesday at the 30-foot high span over Roaring Brook near the Scranton Iron Furnaces.
The messages were apparently deleted before the police launched their investigation.
The girl, who is suffering from a broken leg and internal bleeding, told Scranton detectives about the posts, and a person of interest has been established in connection with the case.
On Tuesday morning, the teen was getting ready to go to school but backed out at the last minute, complaining of an apparent stomachache, and went to bed.
Later that day, Blackwell said she saw her daughter run quickly out of the house shortly after seeing what she said were harassing messages and posting a hasty suicide note on Facebook.
“Somebody came knocking on my door and told me she jumped off the bridge,” Blackwell said, with tears in her eyes. “When I got there, it was true. I wish I had seen it coming.”
Her daughter remains under care at Community Medical Center in Scranton. She has not been talkative since it happened and has eaten little.
“When I go see her in the hospital I can’t think. I’m hurting inside, to see my 16-year-old daughter even think about something like this,” Blackwell said.
She now wants justice to be served for whoever pushed her daughter over the edge. Attorney Bruce Zero, who Blackwell retained after receiving media requests for interviews and to keep tabs on the criminal investigation, said it is alarming that online bullying is becoming prevalent and leading to teenage suicides and suicide attempts.
“You went home to your family, and you didn’t see the bully” before the advent of social media, Zero said. “This is happening all over the country.
“She made a conscious decision she was going to end her life that day,” Zero added. “As a parent, you sometimes don’t see it coming.”
Meanwhile, police are awaiting a court order Monday to compel the company that runs the social networking website to release its electronic records in an attempt to identify who posted the material and when.
Lackawanna County District Attorney Andy Jarbola has said it can be complicated to identify with certainty that someone wrote a particular message.
“It has to be taken on a case-by-case basis,” Jarbola said. “There’s a lot of work trying to make sure that it was the individual who actually did it.”
Blackwell said she wanted to go public because while she is fortunate her daughter survived she wants bullying online or in person to stop today before “it’s too late” and someone else’s child takes their own life.
“Thank God for me it’s not too late,” Blackwell.