Police say criminal charges have been brought against a juvenile in Michigan after an 11-year-old boy killed himself following what the boy’s mother claims was a social media prank.
Authorities in Marquette, Michigan, confirm that an unidentified juvenile is charged with malicious use of telecommunication services and using a computer to commit a crime after the boy was found unresponsive on March 14.
Marquette police declined to provide many details or identify either child involved, because of their age, saying only that the boy who died was “engaged in communication with another juvenile via social media prior to the incident.”
It was not immediately clear if the child who is charged has entered a plea.
However, Katrina Goss tells PEOPLE it was her son Tysen Benz who tried to kill himself that March day — though he did not die until this week.
Goss claims that the child who is charged is a girl that Tysen knew, who faked her own suicide on social media as a prank soon before her son killed himself.
Goss says the accused juvenile was Tysen’s girlfriend.
She says the girl allegedly faked her own suicide using various social media sites and also allegedly used social media accounts of her friends to circulate the rumor of her suicide.
An hour into her prank, Tysen hanged himself, his mom claims. Goss says she found him on March 14 and that emergency response teams managed to resuscitate him. Machines kept Tysen alive for weeks after he was found, but he died in a hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Tuesday.
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“We had to let him pass on,” Goss says. “He was severely brain-damaged and the doctors told us he would never recuperate, that it wasn’t even really him anymore. I was at his bedside for three weeks. We are utterly devastated and we will never get over it.
“He was amazing — an amazing athlete who was super fun and had a great sense of humor. He was extremely social; the whole community is upset.”
Goss alleges that her son contacted the girl’s friends, expressing his thoughts of suicide — but she allegedly kept up the ruse.
“She did nothing to contact me or the authorities,” Goss tells PEOPLE. “I truly don’t know what the point of this prank was. I don’t even know how that’s supposed to be funny, especially if she cared about him at all. I am not sure how that could be a joke. She must have severe psychological issues to go forward with something like that and to keep the joke going even after he told her he was going to kill himself.”
However, a person connected to the teen girl’s family says the allegations Goss made against her are false and that “it is ignorant to accuse this girl of something.”
She “never falsified a suicide,” the person tells PEOPLE. (The girl’s family did not return messages seeking comment.)
Goss says Tysen will be buried next week following services scheduled for Tuesday. She says she is trying to keep things together for her other sons, ages 10 and 14.
Of the girl whom she claims is responsible, Goss says, “She’s intelligent enough to know right from wrong.”
Goss says she tried reaching out for months to the girl’s father and aunt, asking that she cease all communication with her son.
“He was 11 — little kids don’t need to worry about that stuff,” Goss says. “These kids don’t even think what they’re doing online is real. They don’t comprehend the magnitude of their words and how their actions can impact other people. Parents need to monitor their children’s online activities so things like this don’t happen.”
A GoFundMe campaign for Tysen’s medical expenses has thus far raised more than $30,000.
Suicide Prevention: What to Know
Experts say some common warning signs of suicide include discussing a desire to die or feeling hopeless, like a burden, or trapped or in pain; withdrawing from others; extreme mood swings, including anger and recklessness; and abnormal sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little).
Many suicides have multiple causes and are not triggered by one event, according to experts, who underline that suicidal crises can be overcome with help. Where mental illness is a factor, it can be treated.