BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A 15-year-old high school student who jumped to her death from an interstate overpass complained of bullying at school and never got over the death of her sister in a freak accident, factors the coroner said Thursday likely played a role in her suicide.
Chilton County Coroner Randall Yeargan said Alex Moore of Jemison left her rural home early Wednesday and walked to an overpass above Interstate 65. Several drivers on the highway saw her plunge, Yeargan said.
The death was ruled a suicide, Yeargan said, and investigators are trying to determine how much of a role bullying played. The teen's father said the girl expressed anger and grief over her sister's death in a suicide note, but did not mention bullying.
The coroner said Moore clearly was having a hard time at Jemison High School, located in a farming community in central Alabama about 40 miles south of Birmingham.
"The word we're getting is that she had been harassed or bullied by other kids. You know, kids are cruel. She wasn't in the 'in' crowd," he said. "And, she was having considerable problems with the loss of her sister. That may have played as much a role in it as the bullying."
The teen's father, Jim Moore, said in an interview with The Associated Press that relatives didn't know the extent of the bullying and teasing Alex had endured until after messages from classmates began appearing on Facebook pages following her death. She talked of teasing, bullying on the school bus and some boys "messing with her stuff" recently, he said, but it didn't seem to be a major problem.
"She was a good kid, a Christian girl. She loved animals," he said. "(But) she was overweight, she didn't have a lot of friends and wasn't in the 'in' clique."
The Chilton County school superintendent's office referred questions to Jemison High School Principal Alan Thompson, who didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.
Jim Moore said Alex's older sister, 25-year-old Lesley Anne Moore, died about two years ago after stepping into live electrical wires that had been knocked down in an automobile accident. Alex believed the driver should have been held accountable and was upset when he wasn't, Moore said.
Because of that experience, Alex didn't trust authorities and may not have been willing to tell administrators about bullying at school, Moore said. She complained to an assistant principal recently about harassment from male students, he said, but she let the matter drop after an administrator talked to the youths.
"She told her to come back to her if it happened again, and she never did," Moore said.
Moore said neither he nor Alex's mother realized what was happening at school until classmates and friends created Facebook postings and groups talking about all the bullying and harassment she endured. In some postings, students apologize for being mean to her.
One student began a group that said the teen "was made fun of daily."
In describing the group, the student forming it said, "Heartless people, our peers, teased her because she was not up to their standards. Well, not a lot of people are."
School bullying has gained new attention after two students in Massachusetts hanged themselves separately in recent months after suffering repeated harassment from classmates. In one of the cases, six students are criminally charged in connection with the student's death. A new Massachusetts law enacted last week bans bullying on school property and cyberbullying.