Detective determines girl's death not the result of bullying

Detective determines girl's death not the result of bullying

VANCOUVER, Wash. - Eden Wormer's death became an important topic when some of her family members said she was pushed over the edge by bullies at her Vancouver middle school.

"My sister killed herself because of evil, evil people in this world, people who feel like they have to make fun of them to make themselves feel better," said Audri Wormer last March.

Eden Wormer's death in March brought bullying out into the open. The day after Wormer hanged herself, a friend wrote on her Facebook page: "It's sad to think it took someone to kill themselves for everyone to realize what bullying can truly do."

Another wrote: this is a "wake up call for all of us...right?"

The job of figuring out whether bullies were really to blame fell on Vancouver Police Department Detective Scott Creager.

"You look at a situation like this and you look at this girl and you can't reconcile it. I won't forget this investigation," he said.

The image of Wormer's death and the sadness of a young life gone, linger with Creager as few other cases have in his 28 years as a cop.

After interviewing her eighth-grade classmates at Cascade Middle School, he learned much of Wormer's sadness was due to a breakup with a boy and other family issues. For bullying to be a crime, he has to be able to prove Wormer was threatened with harm.

In a police report Creager wrote Wormer "was actively involved in the rivalry with some other girls ... there is no evidence that one side dominated the other."

He determined bullies were not to blame. But the detective also discovered some kids at the school engaged in risky behaviors.

"These are way off of the norms of what I expect to see, and I think a lot of people expect to see from young teenagers. And obviously some of these things are dangerous," he said.

One of the troubling behaviors is kids slicing their wrists or ankles and "was the newest trend among many students at the school." One of the girls described it as "dramatic people acting out and cutting themselves. ... The purpose for the cutting is an outlet for emotional pain."

On YouTube there are countless videos of kids across the country confessing to cutting.

"It's like a high. It's like something, it's definitely like a high, it's something I've never felt before," one girl says in a YouTube video.

Another troubling behavior Creager discovered evidence of is the choking game. Kids pass out to get a high. But they're triggering seizures, brain damage and injuries falling to the ground. Some kids have even died.

"I think parents need to know that this is out there. I'm not trying to scare people or to cause panic," he said. "If they're not aware of the problem, how are they going to have any response?"

It's true whether it's risky behavior, bullying or finding a way to reach out to kids just confused about life and not quite sure where to turn.

Another important factor the kids told the detective is how fights and rivalries in school are handled differently than when their parents were young. Before texting and Facebook, a fight at school stayed at school - kids could get away from it. Now when they go home it's all over the Internet, and there's no break from the pressure.

Resources: