A Texas teenager took her own life in front of her devastated family after suffering for more than a year at the hands of vicious cyberbullies, authorities said.
Tormentors hiding behind fake Facebook accounts had long been harassing Brandy Vela, 18, picking on her about her weight and criticizing her looks in messages that she tried to ignore.
Then someone began pretending to be Brandy online, creating accounts that solicited sex that brought in an onslaught of phone calls that tormented the Texas City high school senior, her family said.
As soon as one page was taken down, another would pop up, leaving Brandy hopeless.
“Sometimes she wouldn’t sleep. She’d call me at night. She’d say 'Dad, I can’t sleep. My phone keeps ringing,'” her father, Raul Vela, told KHOU. “And nobody was willing to help. The help never came.”
Brandy brought the harassing messages she had been receiving on her cell phone to her school’s attention before Thanksgiving, Melissa Tortorici, communications director for the Texas City Independent School District, told InsideEdition.com.
An investigation found that the messages were being sent through an untraceable app and authorities encouraged Brandy to change her phone number, she said.
Though she got a new number, the damage had been done, relatives said.
On Tuesday, Brandy texted and emailed her family apologizing and saying that she was going to kill herself.
They rushed home and pleaded with her to put down the gun that she had pressed against her chest, but Brandy wouldn’t listen.
“She said she’d come too far to turn back,” Vela told KHOU. “It’s hard when your daughter tells you to turn around. You feel helpless.”
Emergency responders rushed Brandy to Clear Lake Regional Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead, police said.
Texas City Police are investigating the allegations of cyberbullying. No arrests have been made.
The Texas City Independent School District is cooperating with the police and have urged anyone with information to come forward, Tortorici said.
“Texas City ISD takes cyberbullying seriously and would penalize to the full extent of the law for any violations,” she said.
School officials are also “very concerned” for students and are monitoring them closely, authorities said.
“We are mourning the loss of a wonderful young lady,” Superintendent Dr. Cynthia Lusignolo said. “We are trying to take care of our students’ needs on campus as they grieve. Our thoughts and prayers are with Brandy’s family and friends. We appreciate the outpouring of support we have had in helping us take care of her teachers’ and classmates’ needs.”
The hallways of Texas City High School of have been covered in blue hearts in remembrance of the girl with the “beautiful blue eyes.”
“We are devastated at this news. Our prayers, thoughts and concerns are with her family and friends as they grieve her loss,” Tortorici said in an email. “Brandy was well-liked and friendly... She has touched many people as evident by the outpouring of love from her schoolmates."
Students and teachers have also written letters to express their feelings about Brandy to her family, she said.
A prayer vigil in Brandy’s memory has been planned that will take place in the school’s parking lot at 6:30 p.m. Friday.