Polk Country Sheriff Grady Judd told Fox News Thursday that if evidence indicates the parents of one of the two girls knowingly allowed the girl to post the bullying comments online, they could be charged with contributing to the dependency or delinquency of a child.
The two girls, ages 12 and 14, were identified by police as the main culprits in the bullying they say led to 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick's suicide. Judd said the 14-year-old girl showed a "total disregard for life" and continued to post comments online after the girl's death.
The family of the 14-year-old girl said her computer account was hacked and that she was not posting anymore. The girl's mother told ABC News that she checked her daughter's Facebook status every time she used it.
Judd, however, has questioned that account.
"You tell me that there's not parents, who instead of taking that device and smashing it into a 1,000 pieces in front of her child, says, 'Oh, her account was hacked?' We see where the problem is," Judd said.
Judd has been criticized by some for his handling of the case. One Tampa Bay defense lawyer told MyFoxTampaBay.com that "he's doing an awful job of pre-judging."
"I don't understand why he can't let the system play out, why he can't let the people who are the lawyers — not the sheriff — investigate the case, look into what's going on here, and then have a judge decide what the appropriate penalty or sentence is, and see about the proper way to handle this in a courtroom," attorney Jeff Brown told the station.
Judd said his office had to step in because the bullying continued and others could have been endangered.
Sedwick was "terrorized" by as many as 15 girls who ganged up on her and picked on her for months through online message boards and texts, authorities said. One of the suspects had been dating Sedwick's former boyfriend. The two had gone to the same school where, at one point, there was a physical confrontation between the girls, authorities said.
The girl who had been dating Sedwick's former boyfriend went to friends around the school and tried to have them turn on Sedwick, Judd said. The girl posted comments on the Internet saying Sedwick should "drink bleach and die," authorities said. The second girl arrested was a former best friend of Sedwick's who was influenced by the other girl to turn on her, authorities said.
Sedwick climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and jumped to her death on Sept. 9, authorities said.