Girl, 13, facing charges after tricking boyfriend into suicide

  • 10/04/2017
Tysen Benz (Katrina Goss/supplied)
Tysen Benz (Katrina Goss/supplied)

A young girl in the US is facing juvenile detention after tricking her boyfriend into thinking she was dead.

Tysen Benz, an 11-year-old from small-town Michigan, tried to kill himself on March 14, on hearing the fake news. He didn't immediately die, spending three weeks in hospital before passing away last week, reports the Washington Post.

The girl, 13, had sent him text and Snapchat messages posing as someone else, saying she had died. Within two hours, Tysen tried to take his own life.

"She used her friend's account to make it even more proof that she'd died," Tysen's mother Katrina Goss told the Post.

"He was so innocent, so kindhearted and so naive that he completely believed her and he took his own life."

Not all of the messages between Tysen and the girl have been recovered because Snapchat messages are encrypted.

The girl has been charged with malicious use of telecommunication service and using a computer to commit a crime. The first charge carries a punishment of up to six months in juvenile detention, the second a year.

Ms Goss called her alleged actions a "twisted, sick joke", and wants her son's death to serve as a warning to parents how destructive cyber bullying can be.

"I just want it be exposed and be addressed," Ms Goss told the Associated Press.

"I want him to basically be the face of the cause. It's a serious issue that I feel is completely skirted. The way that children are using social media currently in this day and age is just terrible."

Tysen had shown no prior signs of depression or mental illness, according to his mum.

"He was perfectly happy and fine. There was no additional sadness that was occurring. He had tons of friends."

New Zealand's cyber bullying law, the Harmful Digital Communications Act, was passed into law in 2015.

Its provisions include:

  • a new enforcement regime to quickly deal with harmful digital communications
  • new criminal offences to deal with the most serious cases
  • amendments to existing laws so they can be applied to digital communications.

NetSafe says it handles about 1000 cyber bullying cases a year. It expects that to rise to 10,000 with its new online harassment service, launched in November by Newshub's own Samantha Hayes.

If you wish to talk to someone about mental illness or domestic violence, you can call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or the Depression Helpline on 0800 111 757.