Mom in Florida cyber bullying case is charged with child abuse

The mother of one of the girls charged in the Florida case of cyber bullying has been arrested on charges of abusing children, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday.

Vivian Vosburg, the mother of one of the girls, has been taken into custody on two counts of child abuse and four counts of child neglect, Sheriff Grady Judd said at news conference. He said the arrest was unrelated to the cyber bullying that led to the suicide of Rebecca Sedwick.

On Sept. 9, Rebecca jumped off of a silo at an abandoned cement plant in Lakeland, Fla. Authorities said she had been targeted for about 10 months by two girls, one 14 and the other 12. The girls told Rebecca she was “ugly” and “should go kill herself” on numerous occasions, according to the arrest affidavit that was released publicly under Florida law. After Rebecca killed herself, the older girl posted messages on Facebook admitting the bullying.

Both girls have been charged with felony aggravated stalking in the case, which has set off a national furor.


Vosburg was booked into the Polk County Jail on Friday and is scheduled to make her first court appearance Saturday, officials said. The charges are felonies.

According to the arrest affidavit in the Vosburg case, the sheriff’s office began receiving tips from Lakeland, Fla., residents about a video posted on Facebook.

“The video was of two juvenile subjects fighting, an adult female punching the fighting juveniles and screaming profanities, and several other juveniles shouting profanities and moving around in what appears to be a bedroom of a residence. A total of six juveniles ranging in ages from 9 to 14 were observed in the video,” officials said.

The adult was identified as Vosburg, the mother of one of the girls charged with aggravated stalking in Rebecca’s death.

Judd said the video of Vosburg beating the children along with her daughter’s alleged bullying “clearly indicates to us what appears to be a normal way of life.”

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” Judd said.

The video was posted on Facebook early in July 2013 by one of the juveniles to whom Vosburg has access and who was in the room at the time of the incident, according to officials.

“This video was easily located on the juvenile’s public social media page as recently as 9 a.m., today, Friday, October 18, 2013. It is clear, not only has Vosburg demonstrated she cannot control the behavior of children she has access to without using violence, but she is obviously not monitoring the social media sites of children she has access to either,” Judd had said earlier in a prepared statement.

According to the sheriff’s office, “Vosburg admitted that she is the woman in the video, and admitted punching one of the juveniles in the face with a fist and punching the second juvenile several times on the back of the head and between his shoulders. She stated that she continued to hit one juvenile after the other fell to the floor because he was attempting get up from the bed. Vosburg stated she knew she should not have hit the juveniles with her fists.”

“I would suggest to you that this violence always occurred, but there was not a mechanism to record it and post it for the whole world to see,” Judd said in the news conference.

Times staff writer Matthew Hamilton contributed to this report.


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