Suit: Social media prank leads to 5th grader’s suicide
A woman in charge of the estate of a fifth grade Orland Park girl is suing two of the girl’s classmates and their parents, claiming the children used social media and a “catfish” account to convince the girl one of the two intended to kill himself, driving her to commit suicide.
All three children were fifth graders at the time of the girl’s death in 2013, according to the lawsuit, filed in Cook County on Friday.
The complaint does not identify the three children or their parents, referring to the girl who committed suicide as Jane Doe II, a fifth grade boy as John Doe II and another fifth grade girl as Jane Doe IV. The names of the children are under seal, according to the suit.
On June 8, 2013, the boy sent the girl messages indicating he intended to commit suicide or harm himself when he did not intend to do so, according to the lawsuit. He also created a fake social media identity going under the name “Zach Gosdea” that made similar claims about the boy.
The other girl, Jane Doe IV, was aware that the boy was sending the messages under his own name and the fake identity and also knew he had no intention of committing suicide, according to the lawsuit. Still, she also sent the girl messages indicating the boy planned to kill or harm himself, the lawsuit claims.
The messages were sent using Facebook, Twitter, Kik, Instagram and Facetime, according to the complaint. The suit uses the term “catfish” to reference the use of a fake social media account to deceive another person.
The two continued to send similar messages over the next two days until the girl committed suicide on the morning of June 10, 2013, according to the lawsuit.
“The continued social media communications, and the circumstances under which they occurred as described herein, caused Jane Doe II to develop severe physical, psychological, and emotional anguish and anxiety, precipitating her death by suicide in the early morning hours of June 10, 2013,” according to the suit.
According to public records, an 11-year-old girl from Orland Park was pronounced dead on that date.
The lawsuit says she suffered “diphenhydramine intoxication.” Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine used to treat allergies or cough, motion sickness and insomnia, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
The lawsuit accuses the boy and girl of negligence in failing to let the girl know the boy didn’t intend to kill or hurt himself and not realizing the impact their messages would have on their classmate. The suit also claims the parents were negligent in failing to monitor the conversations their children had on social media.
Orland Park Police Cmdr. John Keating declined to comment.