This article was originally published on Huffington Post by David Lohr on April 19, 2017.
The mother of an 11-year-old Michigan boy who killed himself after a cruel social media prank wants a 13-year-old girl to face a harsher penalty for her alleged involvement.
“I wish that there were higher charges,” Katrina Goss, of Marquette, told The Huffington Post. She said she plans to speak to the prosecutor about it.
The Marquette County Prosecutors Office filed two misdemeanor charges against the girl: malicious use of a telecommunications device and using a computer to commit a crime. The maximum penalty for both would be 18 months in jail.
Goss’ son, Tysen Benz, hanged himself on March 14 after seeing social media posts and messages that claimed his girlfriend had killed herself.
But what Tysen didn’t know was that it was a hoax spread through accounts of the girlfriend’s friends.
Later that night, Goss found her son’s body in his bedroom. Paramedics revived Tysen, but he never regained consciousness and died at a Detroit-area hospital on April 4. His obituary read, in part:
“Tysen’s years may have been brief on this earth, but every single one was filled with so many joyous and eventful activities that he lived more in his short life than most do in a full lifetime.”
According to Goss, authorities investigating her son’s death discovered the social media suicide hoax.
“I was shocked because I had no idea he was even conversing with her,” Goss said. “He wasn’t supposed to. He wasn’t allowed to speak with her.”
Goss said she’d forbidden her son, a middle school student, from dating the girl because of their age difference and because she didn’t approve of the way the girl was treating her son. It was not until after his death, she said, that she discovered he had a cell phone he was using to communicate with the girl.
“I don’t know exactly which social media they were using,” she said. “That’s in the phone, and that’s in evidence with police.”
A friend of the teenage girl told BuzzFeed News that she never intended for Tysen to harm himself. She was playing a prank to see if Tysen “really loved her, and he took it the wrong way,” the friend said.
Goss created a Facebook page, Prayers to Tysen, as a memorial to her son.
It was not clear Wednesday if the family of the teenage girl had hired an attorney. The Marquette Police Department is referring questions about the case to the Marquette County Prosecutor’s Office. District Attorney Matt Wiese did not return a call for comment from HuffPost on Wednesday.
Goss said her son, whom she described as athletic and charismatic, was extremely social. She said he had lots of friends and impulsively chose to end his life as a result of the “cruel” prank.
“He was amazing,” she said. “He didn’t have any hidden sadness or depression. He was perfectly fine.”
Wiese made a similar statement to The Washington Post.
“The impact that it had on the boy — there’s a logical connection,” the prosecutor said. “He did this within hours of the conversation happening via text.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been started by a family friend to help cover Tysen’s medical bills and funeral expenses. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than $40,000 had been raised.
“The whole thing is shocking,” said Goss, who plans to keep her son’s spirit alive by “standing strong and fighting” bullying on social media.
“He was loved by everyone he knew, and he will absolutely never be forgotten.”