ESTERO — Two Estero High School teens were arrested Wednesday, charged with cyber bullying a classmate after officials learned of a fake Facebook account with sexually explicit photos.
It is believed to be the first time a law enacted in 2008 and named after a Cape Coral teen who committed suicide after being bullied online, has been used in the area.
The two girls, Taylor Wynn, 16, of the 22000 block of Seashore Circle, and McKenzie Barker, 15, of the 9800 block of Springlake Circle, each face a charge of aggravated stalking of a minor younger than 16.
“The case came through detention hearings today,” said Samantha Syoen, a State’s Attorney’s Office spokeswoman. The girls were ordered to have 21 days home detention and will be arraigned Feb. 8.
The investigation began on April 29 when a parent told a school resource officer about a Facebook account, which contained inappropriate, sexually explicit pictures and statements about the victim, according to a Lee County Sheriff’s Office report. The account had 181 “friends.” Officials could not confirm whether the victim still attends the school.
The school resource officer, Deputy Allen Thierer, spoke with several students including the victim, who said she did not make the account and initially thought it would “go away.” But the victim was “subjected to numerous incidents of teasing and ridicule for an ongoing period of time as a result ...,” Thierer reported.
The Facebook account was established to look as if the victim was the creator.
Facebook is a social online networking site where people can “friend” each other and post comments and photographs. It has rules against posting nude photos, anything that incites violence, uses hateful words or is threatening.
However, Facebook itself does not pre-screen the hundreds of thousands of photos uploaded to it daily.
The items posted on the fake account included a photo of the victim’s head placed on top of a nude girl’s body, and comments about sex acts, according to the report.
The first Facebook page was created on April 20 and had 181 friends. A second account about the victim was created April 29 and had five friends, according to the report. Both of the pages were created from the same Internet address owned by Heather L. Wynn, Taylor Wynn’s mother, according to the report.
The Sheriff’s Office team of investigators assigned to the FBI’s Innocent Images Task Force took over the investigation and subpoenaed numerous records.
The Wynns spoke with investigators and Taylor Wynn said she made the page as a joke because she thought it would be funny, adding she and the victim were “friends at one time but they do not like each other now,” according to the report. “Taylor said that no one liked the victim and she thought it would be a funny joke to make the Facebook page.”
Heather Wynn “asked her daughter what made her hate the victim so much that she would do something so mean?” according to the report. “Heather also asked her daughter why she was picking on the victim. Taylor responded: ‘because nobody liked her.’” When contacted by telephone Thursday, Heather Wynn declined an interview.
Barker’s parents did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
Students at Estero High School talked about the incident Thursday.
Makenna Lucy, 15, has known Barker since sixth grade and said she is one of her best friends. Makenna said she used to be friends with the victim. She knew about the Facebook page, but said she didn’t comment on anything on the fake page.
“When I heard about it, I was just kinda ‘whatever’ about it. But I kinda pictured that happening, someone making a page about (the victim,)” she said walking out of the school’s parking lot Thursday afternoon with a group of four other teens. “I’m worried, but like I didn’t know it’d be going on for this long. (I) thought they dropped it.”
Joe Donzelli, a school district spokesman, could not answer where the teens attend school citing a federal law on student’s privacy. It is against the law, he said, to comment on specific students.
When a student faces a felony arrest, the district notifies school administrators who notify teachers and the bus system.
“If charges are brought, that then changes things and the child may be moved to an alternative educational environment if it’s determined that is in the best interest of the child, schools, etc.,” Donzelli said.
The investigation took some time because investigators had to serve search warrants and subpoenas and gather evidence, said Lt. Ryan Bell, assistant commander of the major crimes bureau which houses the investigators for the task force.
“We were able to gain access to the Facebook page through the assistance of other students and substantiate and get information on who established and created the Facebook account,” Bell said Thursday. Investigators also recovered text messages and e-mails between Barker and Wynn about the incident.
One Lee County parent knows all too well how cyber bullying can be deadly.