Marquette County Prosecutor Matt Weise on Wednesday issued the following statement on his decision to charge a 13-year-old girl with a misdemeanor, rather than a felony, for her possible role in the death of 11-year-old Tysen Benz. Benz committed suicide after receiving a social media message that his “girlfriend” was dead.
This is a sad and tragic case. As a parent, I cannot imagine the pain that Tysen’s Mother is experiencing after the death of her son.
I have worked personally on this case with my assistant prosecutors and with the detectives who investigated it. After reviewing all of the evidence it did not appear that the Respondent intended the death of Tysen Benz.
What the evidence did show, however, was an immature and irresponsible act by the Respondent that began the series of events that ultimately led to the death of Tysen.
The Respondent, age 13, and Tysen, age 11, had “dated” prior to the incident. On the date of the incident, for whatever reason, the Respondent posed as another person and sent an internet message to Tysen that the Respondent was dead.
After she and Tysen messaged back and forth, she eventually admitted to Tysen that she was alive and it was all a joke. Tysen was obviously upset by this. Tysen was tragically found by his Mother later that evening.
I met with Tysen’s Mother on multiple occasions. She and I agreed that it was likely that Tysen did not want to kill himself, but wanted to put marks on his neck to show the Respondent just how much emotional hurt she caused him. It is likely that he accidentally hanged himself while trying to make these marks.
As a result of the investigation, the Respondent was not charged with causing Tysen’s death. Instead, she was charged with Telecommunications Services Malicious Use, for making the false report of a person’s death, and 2) Use of a Computer to Commit a Misdemeanor Offense.
It is important to remember that juvenile offenders are treated differently in Michigan Courts than adult offenders are. For misdemeanor level offenses, the focus is on rehabilitation of the juvenile as opposed to punishment.
I agreed, and the Judge concurred, that the Respondent could be placed on the Juvenile Court Consent Calendar. The Respondent has no prior school or Juvenile Court disciplinary history. Youthful offenders who commit a crime, and have no criminal history, are regularly placed on this type of court status.
This is why the Respondent in this case was placed on this status. I can assure all parties involved that nobody in my office wanted to avoid dealing with this case or to be quickly done with it.
This was a heartbreaking case, and nothing that the system does would ever ease the trauma that Tysen’s family is going through. They have my deepest sympathies and condolences.