SARATOGA, Calif. (AP) — The family of a 15-year-old California girl who killed herself after photos of a sexual assault surfaced online says they suspect the boys responsible for the assault tried to destroy evidence.
Audrie Pott’s family posted the message on Friday on the Facebook page of a foundation they set up in the girl’s name. They are asking any students who may have information to come forward.
The Santa Clara County sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the family’s allegations.
The sheriff’s office arrested three 16-year-old boys on Thursday in the 2012 attack.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
Eight days after being sexually assaulted while passed out at a party, and then humiliated by online photos, 15-year-old Audrie Pott posted on Facebook that her life was ruined, “worst day ever,” and hanged herself, the family’s lawyer said.
For the next eight months, her family struggled to figure out what happened to their soccer loving, artistic, horse crazy daughter, whose gentle smile, long dark hair and shining eyes belied a struggling soul.
And then on Thursday, seven months after the tragedy, a California sheriff’s office arrested three 16-year-old boys on suspicion of sexual battery. The arrests “reopened a wound” for family members of Pott, and they have gone into seclusion, family attorney Robert Allard said.
“The family has been trying to understand why their loving daughter would have taken her life at such a young age and to make sure that those responsible would be held accountable,” Allard said.
“After an extensive investigation that we have conducted on behalf of the family, there is no doubt in our minds that the victim, then only 15 years old, was savagely assaulted by her fellow high school students while she lay on a bed completely unconscious,” he said.
Allard said students used cell phones to share photos of the assaults and the images went viral.
Santa Clara County sheriff’s Lt. Jose Cardoza said two of the teens were arrested at Saratoga High School and the third, a former Saratoga High student, at Christopher High School in Gilroy. The names of the suspects were not released because they are minors. Details about the assault were also not released.
Cardoza said the suspects were booked into juvenile hall and face two felonies and one misdemeanor each.
The lieutenant said the arrests were the result of information gathered by his agency’s Saratoga High School resource officers. He said the investigation is ongoing, and Los Gatos police also continue looking into the girl’s September suicide.
The Associated Press does not routinely identify victims of sexual assault. But in this case, Pott’s family wanted her name and case known, Allard said. The family also provided a photo to the AP.
The girl’s family members have not commented and have requested privacy until a planned news conference Tuesday. Her father and step-mother, Lawrence and Lisa Pott, along with her mother Sheila Pott, have started the Audrie Pott Foundation to provide music and art scholarships and offer youth counseling and support.
The foundation website alludes to the teen’s struggles, but until now neither law enforcement, school officials nor family have discussed the sexual assault.
“She was compassionate about life, her friends, her family, and would never do anything to harm anyone,” the site says. “She was in the process of developing the ability to cope with the cruelty of this world but had not quite figured it all out.
“Ultimately, she had not yet acquired the antibiotics to deal with the challenges present for teens in today’s society.”
Two days after Pott died, fellow students and staff at Saratoga High School wore her favorite color, teal, in her honor.
“Our sympathies go out to all of the families affected by this tragic situation,” Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District Superintendent Bob Mistele said in a statement. “Collaborating with our parents, students, staff and community we will continue to work diligently to maintain a positive climate at our high schools based on respect, responsibility, and open communication that discourages cyber bullying and inappropriate conduct.”
The Pott family is not alone.
In Canada on Thursday, authorities said they were looking further into the case of a teenage girl who hanged herself Sunday after an alleged rape and months of bullying. A photo said to be of the 2011 assault was shared online.
No charges initially were filed against four teenage boys being investigated. But after an outcry, Nova Scotia’s justice minister appointed four government departments to look into the case.
On the Web: Audrie Pott Foundation.