Michigan prosecutors contend there is a “logical connection” between an alleged online death hoax orchestrated by a 13-year-old girl and the subsequent suicide of an 11-year-old boy.
Marquette County, Michigan, Prosecuting Attorney Matt Wiese recently defended his decision to charge the juvenile girl with malicious use of telecommunication services and using a computer to commit a crime.
“Posting this hoax of somebody dying was pretty reckless,” he said.
A funeral was held Tuesday for Tysen Benz, who hanged himself last month but did not die until last week, when he was removed from life support.
The boy killed himself following what his mother insists was a cruel online prank.
Katrina Goss tells PEOPLE the child facing charges connected to her son’s death is a girl that Tysen knew and that she allegedly faked her own suicide on social media.
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Though the exact nature of the alleged prank is unclear, Goss says the accused child was Tysen’s girlfriend. Goss claims the girl used various social media sites as well as social media accounts of her friends to circulate the rumor of her death.
Tysen tried killing himself 45 minutes into the prank, Goss alleges, though prosecutors have reportedly said it was “within hours.”
Goss says her son allegedly contacted the girl’s friends, expressing his thoughts of suicide — but she kept the prank alive.
“The impact that it had on the boy — there’s a logical connection,” he told the Post. “He did this within hours of the conversation happening via text.”
Wiese told the Free Press he hopes Tysen’s suicide sends a message to all parents and children that “there can be serious consequences to reckless behavior” online.
“I wanted to encourage parents to pay attention to this seemingly private world that our children exist in,” Wiese said. “If we’re buying them a $600 smartphone and giving them access to this digital world, we need to know where they’re going, what they’re doing and who they’re talking to. If they’re not open, then we have a responsibility not to give them access.”
A ‘Beautiful’ Funeral for Tysen
Reached Wednesday, the morning after her son’s funeral, Goss tells PEOPLE she is “in extreme mourning.”
She called Tuesday’s memorial for Tysen “a beautiful service with many many dear friends and family.”
“We will love him and cherish him forever in our hearts,” Goss says.
The name of the girl has not been released; it was unclear if she has entered a plea. Messages left with her family were not returned.
If convicted on both charges, she could be sentenced to serve more than 18 months in a juvenile detention facility.
A GoFundMe campaign for Tysen’s medical expenses and funeral expenses has raised more than $42,000.
Suicide Prevention: What to Know
Experts say some common warning signs of suicide include discussing a desire to die or feeling hopeless, like a burden, or trapped or in pain; withdrawing from others; extreme mood swings, including anger and recklessness; and abnormal sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little).
Many suicides have multiple causes and are not triggered by one event, according to experts, who underline that suicidal crises can be overcome with help. Where mental illness is a factor, it can be treated.
If you or someone you know is showing warning signs of suicide, consider contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK, texting the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or seeking help from a professional.