Probate case settled
MARQUETTE — The probate court case regarding a 13-year-old girl accused of pulling an online prank that may have led to the death of 11-year-old Tysen Benz was settled Friday, according to the Marquette County Prosecutor’s Office, with the girl’s sentence drawing criticism from Benz’s mother.
In a statement issued Monday, Benz’s mother, Katrina Goss, said she believes the judge and prosecutor didn’t “want to deal with the case” due to the national media coverage.
Since Benz’s death, she has been interviewed by popular sources such as Detroit Free Press, People magazine, Dr. Phil and several others.
“I feel that due to the defendant’s age the court system was afraid to put forth harsher punishment for the girl due to public backlash. I feel that the court system failed my late son,” Goss stated.
Goss said the girl was sentenced to four to six months probation, but court officials didn’t confirm those details.
The girl, who is not being named due to her age, was charged with telecommunication services-malicious use and using a computer to commit a crime in connection to Benz attempting suicide on March 14. Both charges are misdemeanor level offenses.
According to a police report regarding the incident, which was previously obtained by The Mining Journal, the girl told police she used a friend’s social media account to tell Benz she had died. The girl said she eventually admitted to him that it was a joke but he was upset with her for pretending she was dead.
Benz was found unresponsive within hours of the alleged prank and died April 4 after three weeks on life support.
In a statement issued today, Prosecuting Attorney Matt Wiese said Benz and the girl had “dated” prior to the incident.
“I met with Tysen’s mother on multiple occasions. She and I agreed that it was likely that Tysen did not want to kill himself, but wanted to put marks on his neck to show the respondent just how much emotional hurt she caused him,” Wiese said. “It is likely that he accidentally hanged himself while trying to make these marks.”
As of result of the investigation, the girl was not charged with causing Benz’s death.
“It is important to remember that juvenile offenders are treated differently in Michigan courts than adult offenders are. For misdemeanor level offenses, the focus is on rehabilitation of juvenile as opposed to punishment,” Wiese said. “I can assure all parties involved that nobody in my office wanted to avoid dealing with this case or to be quickly done with it. This was a heartbreaking case, and nothing that the system does would ever ease the trauma that Tysen’s family is going through. They have my deepest sympathies and condolences.”
Goss said she will continue to push for tougher regulations on cyberbullying in Michigan.
“There are too many children dying due to internet bullying. I am going to continue to fight for laws to honor my son and try to help save other victims,” she said.
Anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts is urged to call the National Lifeline number at 800-273-TALK or Dial Help, an Upper Peninsula crisis center, at 800-562-7622.
Dial Help has calling, texting or chatting capability available 24 hours, seven days a week.
Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.