Mean-spirited messages, but no evidence of bullying found in death of 10-year-old Santa Ana girl

Police investigating the suspected suicide of a 10-year-old Santa Ana girl found several mean-spirited posts in a social media group she participated in, but nothing that rose to the level of bullying, officials said Wednesday, Oct. 23.

Relatives identified Allison Wendel as the Hazard Elementary School student who died in what police called an apparent suicide on Sunday, Oct. 13.The girl’s sister found her body at their home on the 1500 block of North Newhope Street.

Suspicions that the child had possibly taken her own life, and that bullying might have played a role in the tragedy prompted officials to launch an investigation.

Detectives interviewed more than 50 students, 30 adult staff as well as the family and friends of those possibly linked to the girl’s death, police and Garden Grove Unified School District officials said in statements Wednesday. Investigators also examined her online interactions and electronic devices, reviewing over 2,500 social media posts and videos, and found no evidence of criminal conduct.

A portion of that investigation focused on a social media group the 10-year-old had been a member of, Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. He added that it contained several mean-spirited posts, but those were not specifically directed at the girl who died.

“This isn’t a criminal case, but we want to take the opportunity to make this an educational moment for students and parents to be more mindful about their online interactions,” Bertagna said.

The girl did not leave any sort of note or message behind, but the evidence gathered thus far by police does not suggest any other person was involved in her death, Bertagna said. Authorities declined to discus how she died, but have determined that the incident was a case of suicide, Orange County Supervising Deputy Coroner Larry Esslinger said.

Officials are focused on helping those affected move forward from the tragedy, GGUSD officials said. The district has partnered with Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, a non-profit clinic based in Los Angeles County, to provide crisis counseling to students. Campus psychologists, social workers and counselors will also be available.

For additional resources, parents or interested parties were encouraged to seek information at Stopbullying.gov and SuicidePreventionLifeline.org

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