The brutal beating of a 15-year-old girl at a Florida middle school was triggered by a text message dispute between the victim and the teenage boy accused punching and stomping on her with steel-toed boots, authorities said Thursday.
The 15-year-old suspect was ordered held at a juvenile detention center while prosecutors determine whether to charge him as an adult. He was arrested after the attack Wednesday on a charge of premeditated attempted murder. His next court date is March 26.
The Broward Sheriff's Office said Josie Lou Ratley was in critical condition a day after the attack.
The sheriff's office also said a 13-year-old girl was arrested Thursday as an accessory to the brutal beating.
Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti said the 13-year-old girl pointed out the victim to the boy when he arrived at Deerfield Beach Middle School. Lamberti said the male suspect and the victim didn't know each other well.
The girl "knew he was going to do this, did nothing to stop him, and in fact, directed him to Josie, the victim, and pointed her out," Lamberti said.
The male suspect and the 13-year-old girl were in a relationship, and she had been using other people's phones to send him text messages because she didn't have one of her own, Lamberti said. The suspect had sent a message to Ratley's phone to get in touch with the other girl.
Lamberti said that the victim objected to the boy's relationship with the 13-year-old and said so during an exchange of text messages with him.
"Those messages went back and forth and one of the messages was a comment regarding the suicide of his brother, that's apparently what set him off," Lamberti said.
Authorities said the boy then rode his bicycle to the middle school and got the 13-year-old to help him find Ratley.
A teacher pulled the male suspect off the girl, who was airlifted to a hospital.
Defense attorney Betsy Benson, who's representing the male suspect, said the brother's suicide played a role in the incident.
"I think that what we are going to find out is that the impact of this had a lot to do with this situation," she said.
Students from the same middle school were also involved in an attack last year in which a teenage boy, Michael Brewer, was set on fire.
"It seems like with this youth violence happening, it seems like we have a culture of callousness going on with kids. We really have to get to the bottom of it." Lamberti said.