Matt Wiese issues statement on Benz case

MARQUETTE — Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Wiese issued a statement Wednesday in response to criticism of his office’s handling of the court case involving a 13-year-old girl accused of pulling an online prank that may have led to the death of 11-year-old Tysen Benz.

Court officials confirmed the probate court case was settled Friday, though didn’t confirm the girl’s sentencing details.

In a statement issued Monday, Benz’s mother, Katrina Goss, said the girl — who isn’t being named due to her status as a minor — was sentenced to four to six months probation.

In her statement, Goss criticized Wiese and Judge Cheryl Hill for not giving the girl a harsher punishment due to her age, and said the courts didn’t “want to deal with the case” due to it being a highly publicized incident.

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 in a press release. “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 in the release. “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.”

The girl 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.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is jdepew@miningjournal .net.