She reported the harassment to police before she died
Police are now investigating suspects behind the bullying
Brandy Vela’s bedroom is covered in Post-it notes. “You will always own a piece of my heart,” says one. “You will never be forgotten,” says another.
Blue hearts, for her “beautiful blue eyes,” are taped up and down her high school hallway.
All of them a heartbreaking reminder of a life cut short.
Vela killed herself this week, putting a gun to her chest while her family begged her not to. She was 18 years old – and she had been relentlessly bullied.
Bullied for her weight
Brandy’s sister, Jackie, says the teen had always been bullied for her weight, but the cyberbullying ramped up in April.
“People would make up fake Facebook accounts and they would message her and she wouldn’t respond and they would still come at her,” Jackie said.
“They would say really, really mean things like, ‘Why are you still here?’ They would call her fat and ugly. She was beautiful, absolutely beautiful; the only thing people could find to pick on her was her weight.”
Jackie says her sister changed her phone number and reported the bullying to police, but was told they couldn’t help her.
“They couldn’t do anything because [the suspects] used an app and it wasn’t traceable and they couldn’t do something until something happened, like they fight,” Jackie said.
’I’m sorry for everything’
Jackie said she knew something was wrong when she got a text from Brandy on Tuesday saying “I love you so much, please remember that, and I’m sorry for everything.”
Worried, she called her parents and grandparents. They rushed home to their house in Texas City, Texas, where they found Brandy in her room with a gun.
The family pleaded with the teen not to pull the trigger. But Brandy had made up her mind.
A devastated community
Melissa Tortorici, the communications director for the Texas City Independent School District where Brandy was a high school senior, says the community is “devastated.”
“Brandy was well-liked and friendly. Texas City High School students really liked her. She has touched many people as evident by the outpouring of love from her schoolmates,” Tortorici wrote in an email to CNN.
Texas City police Capt. Joe Stanton told CNN that detectives were interviewing the family and will be contacting people the family believes are suspects. They’re also following up on several tips that came in.
In addition, sheriff’s deputies will be addressing cyberbullying again with students next week.
“Today’s young adults and teenagers have grown up with technology and they have access to it 24/7. Many times they become very bold over technology and text things they would never say directly to someone’s face,” Tortorici said.
“It’s extremely difficult to stop someone from sending messages when apps make it easy to remain anonymous.”
Tortorici said students are planning to release blue balloons in Brandy’s honor Friday.
A new reality
After she shot herself, Brandy was taken to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead. Her organs, including those eyes, were recovered.
“She had beautiful eyes,” Jackie said, adding the family hopes to meet the person who receives them.
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For now, Jackie is adjusting to her new reality.
’I’m going to miss having her be here, going into her room and laying with her and talking to her.”