Tysen Benz was in his room when he read text messages saying someone he knew had committed suicide.
Shortly after, the 11-year-old boy from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula hanged himself.
Now, a 13-year-old girl is facing criminal charges in connection with his death. Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Wiese said the girl posed as someone else when she faked her own death during a text conversation with Tysen. And the boy, for reasons still unclear, believed it and killed himself within two hours of receiving the messages, Wiese said.
Wiese said he could not confirm the relationship between Tysen and the girl, but media reports say she was his girlfriend.
“The impact that it had on the boy – there’s a logical connection,” Wiese told The Washington Post. “He did this within hours of the conversation happening via text.”
The girl, whose name was not released, has been charged with malicious use of telecommunication service, punishable by up to six months in juvenile detention; and using a computer to commit a crime, which carries a sentence of up to a year. Both are misdemeanor charges.
The incident happened on March 14. Nothing seemed amiss when the boy came home from school that day, said his mother, Katrina Goss of Marquette, Michigan. He seemed happy and was proud that he had gone to his tutoring session without being reminded, Goss said. She baked him some treats as a reward. After dinner, Tysen went up to his room.
Shortly after 10 p.m., Goss went to each of her three sons’ rooms to tuck them in. Tysen’s door was locked, but she opened it with her key. At first, she thought her middle son was hiding or playing a trick because he wasn’t in his bed.
“I went in, and I thought he was being silly,” Goss said. “I ended up finding him in the closet . … I tried to hurry up and lift him up. I was screaming. I told my oldest son to call 911. My littlest one was bawling.”
Goss said paramedics managed to revive Tysen. The boy was hospitalized for three weeks before he died Tuesday at a Detroit-area hospital.
Goss said her son often used Snapchat. The night he died, she said he was texting and talking on Snapchat with the 13-year-old girl, who was using someone else’s account when she told Tysen that his girlfriend had died. No one warned her son that it was all a prank, Goss said.
“She used her friend’s account to make it even more proof that she’d died,” Goss said. “He was so innocent, so kindhearted and so naive that he completely believed her and he took his own life.”