OCALA, Fla. - Rachel Wade's home is the Lowell Correctional Institution for Women. Her 21st birthday was spent behind bars and that's where she will celebrate the next 20.
Even though she is behind bars, she hopes her story will help some other young girl. "I think (it would help), if they would listen. But when I was younger I did not listen to anything."
Her story is about teenage love. But the relationship was played out in text messages and social media websites. A war of words that ended with a deadly street-side showdown.
One night in April 2009, a year of internet battle ended in 5 seconds when Wade, 19 years old at the time, stabbed and killed her romantic rival, 18-year-old Sarah Ludemann. She learned of what happened during an interrogation with police the same night.
In a video recording of the interrogation, a detectives tells Wade, "There is something you need to know, Rachel. Sarah is dead."
Wade can be seen breaking down and sobbing uncontrollably. "Oh my God! I just wanted them to leave me alone!" She cried. Tears streamed down her face as she bowed her head. "I just did not want them to terrorize me anymore. They followed me everywhere. They come to my job. They come to my house. Oh my God!"
Now Wade is in prison, after a jury took about three hours to convict her of second degree murder.
"I always think of what I could have done differently," said Wade. "I could have tried to approach her and tell her it's not me it is not you -- it's him.
Both girls were engaged in a vicious internet battle over another teenager, Joshua Camacho. She now realizes he did not deserve her love and Sarah didn't either. "No, none of us."
But, Wade explained, it was easy for both girls to fight over him. A fight where fists weren't needed.
"You can hide behind technology. You can be a whole other person. It's almost like you can threaten something or say whatever you want and possibly scare them and you don't have to face them at that moment."
Her defense attorney, Jay Hebert agreed. He has poured hours into this case, many hours that he never billed the family because he is deeply affected by what happened.
"To me they were both children. Their lives did not need to be devastated or destroyed."
Hebert has been a lawyer for 21 years. But his most important job is being a father to two children, a girl and a boy. He said not only was his client's life changed forever so was his.
"Over the years, there are cases that hit home," said Hebert. "But I believe in my practice, I never had a case that hit home harder. This is such a tragic tale of two lives that became intertwined and both lives and both families completely devastated."
"If there is any good that can come out of this tragic situation, hopefully we will help educate other parents about the dangers and the risks of social networks," he said.
Hebert is putting his words into action. He prepares not only legal briefs but bullet point presentations on cyber dangers. "When kids text the number 9, that means parents are watching."
He spends his own time not only in a courtroom but a classroom. Hebert has visited numerous schools and plans on visiting many more.
"I believe strongly it is a two-step process. We spend about 45 minutes with the parents and then we spend about 45 minutes with the kids and we are hoping to enlighten both sets."
Hebert feels, much like a D.A.R.E. program, a cyber program should in place beginning in middle school.
"Our children are the Christopher Columbus’s of the new world. Nothing has changed so dramatically as what our generation of kids are facing today, and that is because of the internet and the explosion of the internet. This, I think, is an epidemic. With the explosion of the internet, the instant communication, our children have the inability to communicate with each other to try and sit down and have a conversation."
He feels all parents should learn as much as they can about social networking. "I think as parents we have to take responsibility for the world as we see it today and that world is exploding."
One of his best tips is to charge all computer equipment in their bedrooms so kids don't have access to them all night long. He wants to make a difference. He wants to prevent what he calls another tragedy.
"There is nothing we can do to turn back the clock, there is nothing we can do to change what happened, but hopefully we can educate -- with Rachel's help -- other parents and keep this from happening to another set of parents."
Wade is grateful for Hebert. "I am lucky to see my parents. It could have been me. And, like I said I would take it back if I could but I am still here and I am going to get out one day, so I try to stay as positive as I can.
Behind bars with her attorney's help, Wade hopes someone will listen and not end up like her, a young woman who will grow up in prison.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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