Published October 18, 2013
The Florida teenager who allegedly helped bully a 12-year-old girl so viciously that she committed suicide lived in a household where violence apparently was a way of life, authorities said Friday in announcing abuse charges against the teen’s stepmother.
Vivian Vosburg, 30, of Lakeland, was charged with two counts of child abuse with bodily harm, and four counts of child neglect, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said Friday.
Police said there was no connection between the abuse charges and the bullying case that resulted in the suicide of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick.
The charges came after authorities received tips about a video posted on Facebook that allegedly showed Vosburg punching several children in the view of other adolescents, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office.
In the clip, which Sheriff Grady Judd aired during a Friday afternoon press conference, Vosburg appears to be punching two children while in the presence of four other kids. The children in the room were between the ages of 9 and 14, authorities said.
Vosburg told police on Thursday that she was simply breaking up a fight, the release said.
The sheriff's office confirmed on Friday that Vosburg lives with her stepdaughter and claims to be her mother, although she actually was the "significant other" of the teen's father.
Authorities said the arrest is not connected with the events surrounding the suicide of Sedwick, who killed herself after she was allegedly abused verbally and physically by several girls, including Vosburg’s stepdaughter.
But in discussing the video with authorities, Judd suggested that a violent home environment could have rubbed off on Vosburg’s stepdaughter.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” Judd said. “The bullying we saw from (the stepdaughter) certainly could have been a byproduct of what occurs, apparently as a routine, in the home.”
He added: "Beating these children clearly indicates to us that that appears to be a normal way of life."
Authorities were not certain who took the video, and a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office said one of the children present posted the video on their Facebook account.
Sedwick was "terrorized" by as many as 15 girls who ganged up on her and picked on her for months through online message boards and texts, authorities have said.
Sedwick climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and jumped to her death on Sept. 9.
Vosburg remained in custody at the Polk County Jail late Friday afternoon, pending a court appearance scheduled for Saturday, the sheriff’s office said. No bond is available until she appears in court, and it was not immediately clear whether she had an attorney.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.