NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- Phoebe Prince’s mother made two heart-wrenching statements in court today, speaking in public for the first time about the devastating loss of her daughter and the “unbearable pain” she is suffering. Anne O’Brien addressed the court and two of the defendants that had been charged with taking part in what prosecutors described as the “relentless” torment of a young girl. Prince was a 15-year-old high school freshmen at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts when she took her own life on January 14th, 2010.
“There is a dead weight that now sits permanently in my chest. It is an unbearable pain and it will stay with me until my own death. I would not wish this kind of pain on any parent,” said O’Brien. “It is torture.”
The two teenagers who appeared in Hampshire Superior Court in Northhampton today reached plea agreements with the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office.
Sean Mulveyhill, who had been 17 and a high school senior at the time of Phoebe’s death, pleaded guilty to criminal harassment, agreeing to 100 hours of community service with at risk youth and a year of probation. The more serious charges of violation of civil rights and statutory rape were dropped in exchange.
Kayla Narey, also 17 at the time of Prince’s death, admitted to the facts of the case but the agreement resulted in a continuation without a finding on the criminal harassment charge and all other charges were dropped.
From the beginning, prosecutors said the taunting Prince endured stemmed from teenage jealousy. Narey had been dating Mulveyhill and when it was discovered that Prince had also been in a relationship with the popular football player, the bullying soon got underway.
Prince was a recent immigrant from Ireland, younger and new in school.
O’Brien said her daughter had trusted Mulveyhill but he used their relationship to “humiliate her and destroy her spirit.”
“Phoebe trusted Sean Mulveyhill to take care of her, guide her through the maze of South Hadley High School. I can only imagine the pain she felt in his unrelenting desire to harass and humiliate her,” said O’Brien. “Sean and I both know that I was lied to about the true nature of his relationship with Phoebe. Had I know the truth I would have viewed his interest in my daughter as predatory and she would have been forbidden to see him.”
In December, Prince had come to Narey in school to say she was sorry for having a relationship with Mulveyhill. At first, say prosecutors, Narey thought this was brave and appreciated the information but the peace did not last.
“Phoebe found the courage and compassion to seek out Kayla Narey and apologize when she discovered that Sean had lied to them both,” said O’Brien. “Kayla had an opportunity to be a true leader of her school community and put a stop to Phoebe’s torment. Instead, she joined in in subtle and cunning ways, too weak a character to match Phoebe’s courage that she had shown her.”
In court, Narey acknowledged the facts of the case, that she joined in the verbal attacks, posting a nasty comment online, laughing in the hallway and library as other classmates yelled disparaging taunts about the younger girl’s Irish heritage and reputation.
She offered an emotional apology to Prince’s family and directly to Phoebe.
“My behavior in the days leading up to Phoebe’s death was unacceptable. I wish we could go back to December 10th and 11th of 2009 when you bravely apologized to me on both days,” said Narey as she struggled to hold back tears. “We had respectful words with each other and although I was not happy, I was kind to you. It was my hurt, anger and jealousy that caused my attitude to change after Christmas vacation. That’s when I had my chance to act like the person I was raised to be. I failed. I was the weak one and that failure will always be with me.”
“I am sorry Phoebe. I am sorry for the unkind things I said to others about you. I am sorry about the unkind posting on my Facebook page but mostly I am sorry about January 14th of 2010 in the library and in the hallway when I laughed when someone else was shouting humiliating things at you. I am immensely ashamed of myself that I allowed my emotions to spiral into acts of unkindness,” said Narey.
Tomorrow, three more teenage defendants will go before a judge in Franklin-Hampshire Juvenile Court and are expected to reach plea deals. Sharon Chanon Velazquez, Ashley Longe and Flannery Mullins were all 16-years-old when prosecutors accused them of joining in the bullying.
One case is slated for a final pre-trial hearing in July. Austin Renaud, who was 18-years-old at the time, stands accused of statutory rape but faces no other charges.
Darby O’Brien, no relation to the Prince family, is a parent with a child in the South Hadley school system. He still believes the school did not do enough to prevent Prince’s death but said there is some measure of good being done across the country and around the world.
“Sadly, it’s really raised awareness of how frail kids are and what a lot of kids are going through especially in high school and middle school and I think that you know people are on high alert and they step in and they do something,” said O’Brien.