A seventh grader was found hung by a rope in her home after suffering three months of vicious bullying by a group of girls who threatened her and repeatedly called her a slut so she'd quit school.
For two months, Rachel Ehmke, 13, began school each day greeted with the word "slut" on her locker door.
“My dad had to call twice before [they] actually did something about it,” Rachel's 22-year-old sister, Brittany said, according to the Austin Daily Herald. “Everyone had to watch my little sister open her locker [with the word still present].”
Her father, Rick Ehmke, says at roughly the same time, Rachel and a friend were cornered in the school locker room by a "clique" of girls and then threatened.
Her sister, Brittany also said their father complained to school officials about the bullying, but they were slow to respond.
We thought she was dealing with it
"She tried to deal with it,” said her father Rick to Kare11. “We thought she was dealing with it and the school thought she was dealing with it," he adds, “she locked into this stuff and couldn't let it go."
Indeed, she did. Her father said in order for her to eat lunch in peace, she hid out in the girls locker room instead of the school cafeteria to protect herself from her tormentors.
But she couldn't let it go for a good reason: her abusers wouldn't let her go.
“Now the bully follows you home,” her father Rick said.
I'm not going back on Monday
Three days before her death, a text message allegedly circulated through the student body encouraging others to turn up the heat with threats and name calling Racheal a "slut," and "prostitute," so she'd quit school.
Chris Flannery, the parent of two Kasson-Mantorville middle school students, told Kare11 his 8th grade daughter was among several students who received an anonymous text.
"It was pretty explicit," he said. "Something to the effect of that Rachel was a slut and to get her to leave the Kasson-Mantorville School, forward this to everyone you know."
But little did anyone know, how tragically their plan would work.
The principal called Rachel’s parents to let them know what happened.
Rachel told family members, "I'm fine." According to the Austin Daily Herald, Rick Ehmke said he spoke with his daughter the evening before she killed herself.
She begged him not make a big deal of the latest incident, fearing it would make matters worse for her at school. They also talked about finding Rachel a different school.
She told her dad, "she wasn't going back on Monday."
Her heart stopped beating
The Herald says, Rachel made plans to hang out with her older brother, Jonathan, Saturday, but she had homework to do first, so he dropped her off at her mom’s house. Rachel’s mother was in Las Vegas at the time.
“She got out of the car and she turned around and smiled at him for the last time,” her sister Brittany said while tearing up. “And then she went inside.”
Jonathan called her father, asking him to pick up Rachel. Her dad got to the house about 25 minutes after Jonathan dropped her off, according to Brittany.
That's when Brittany said he walked up to the door and saw Rachel hanging by a noose from a beam in the ceiling inside.
But he couldn't get inside.
Rachel had locked all the doors.
Rick used his shoulder and a baseball bat and broke down the door to get inside.
Her heart was still beating, he called 911.
Paramedics took her to the hospital and family members gathered there hoping again, she would be OK.
Around midnight or 1 a.m., doctors let the family know that Rachel wasn't going to be okay. Doctors told the family that she had no chance of survival. The 13-year-old had sustained too much internal damage to her brain, heart and lungs,said the Herald.
Rachel stopped responding to life support by 3 a.m.
“Her heart just slowly stopped beating,” Brittany said.
Parents feels for tormentors
According to THR news, somewhat surprisingly, Rick said he's not interested in seeing the girls whose actions allegedly forced his daughter to take her life, charged criminally.
"We're not saying they're bad kids," Rachel's father said, " they just made some really bad choices."
He said he feels for the girls who will have to live with what they did.
"Sadly enough, even those kids that know who they are will carry this baggage their whole life. That's a sad thing too, it really is."
He added: "If [they] would've known this would happen I'm pretty sure they never, ever would have done what they did," her dad said.
Prosecutors feel a bit differently.
Dodge County Sheriff Jim Jensen confirmed that his department is conducting a criminal investigation with the Kasson Police Department. Jensen says Minnesota lacks a bullying statute that applies to Rachel's case, but adds prosecutors have other options, including harassment, if charges are filed.
"Terroristic threats might fall in there depending on what type of bullying is going on," said Jensen.
"I'm fine = I wish I could tell you how I really feel."
Since the tragedy, Rachel’s family is hearing from friends, relatives and even strangers, some of whom are sharing signs Rachel supposedly may have left.
Speaking to the Community Against Bullying meeting Tuesday night, Brittney,22, told Austin residents that she didn’t notice any signs, said the Herald.
“It hurts so bad,” Brittany said wiping away tears. “I wish I would have known what my little sister was going through.”
Rachel had always told her family she was “fine” with the situation and not to worry about her.
THR says, it wasn’t until the family searched through Rachel’s belongings that they discovered why.
"I'm fine = I wish I could tell you how I really feel," Rachel said, on a note card left behind.
Now her family tells others, whose children may be in the same situation, how it really feels.
"Words hurt. Word can kill," said Mary Ehmke, Rachel's mom, wiping away tears. "And it did," added her father.