Tucson – It’s tragic enough for a mother to lose a child. When you’re the person who finds your child’s body, it’s unimaginable.
“My daughter was bullied so much, she committed suicide,” Diana Corral said. “She hung herself.”
Diana told us her daughter, Maya, was cyber-bullied by peers and couldn’t take it anymore. Diana said that on Aug. 24, she had a premonition something was wrong, so she went to Maya’s home on the southwest side.
“I found her hanging in the closet by a USB cord. And I had to take her down. I had to untie her cold, lifeless body,” Corral said.
The Pima County Medical Examiner ruled Maya’s death suicide by hanging.
Diana raised Maya herself and said they were like best friends. Maya was 18 years old and spent almost all her short life in a wheelchair. A spinal cord injury from a car crash when she was an infant left her a paraplegic. Her family claimed Maya’s car seat was faulty and sued the manufacturer. As part of a settlement, she was awarded $2.7 million, which she received when she turned 18. She was a high school senior and bought a $500,000 home.
Diana said the money was a curse. “It brought out a lot of bad people,” she said. “Her money brought out kids that were pretending to be her friend but just using her and my daughter didn’t know. She never had [so many] friends like that.”
The several girls who bullied Maya hid behind phones and computers. They posted incredibly mean comments on Facebook. One called Maya a “vegetable.” Another girl said, “We should roll her off a mountain and kill her and then kick her while she’s dead. And then we would throw a party.”
Maya’s mom said, “I just want to tell the bullies, to please think about what they say to hurt people. Because it doesn’t hurt just the person that they want to bully, it affects the whole family.”
Diana said Maya sent texts to at least two friends hours before she killed herself and no one did anything. “I feel like maybe she could have been saved,” Diana told us. “It makes me angry and it hurts me that she probably sat in the closest waiting to see who would come rescue her. And nobody did.”
Arizona’s anti-bullying laws don’t cover cyber-bullying, but charges could be brought within harassment statutes. Maya’s mother says she will pursue charges. Maya attended Ombudsman Charter School. The cyber-bullies’ posts we obtained did not come from any students at Ombudsman.
A school spokesperson declined our interview request. In a statement, Associate Superintendent Michael Goto said, “We are deeply saddened by the death of this former student and our hearts are with the family as they continue to cope with this tragic loss. While privacy regulations prevent us from sharing information about any student, our school follows strong and appropriate policies to endure a safe environment free of harassment or bullying. The safety and well-being of our student is our top priority and we are committed to taking swift and appropriate action to mediate any concerns.”
“What we’re seeing across the nation and in Tucson is that the increase in suicidal attempts and death by suicide is increasing.”
Tammy Hilly, Coordinator for the Tucson Unified School District’s counseling department, said: “What we’re seeing across the nation and in Tucson is that the increase in suicidal attempts and death by suicide is increasing.”
If you know someone you think may be suicidal, say something. And if you’re a parent, watch your kid’s online activity. “That is really, really, I think the biggest piece in this,” Hilly said. “Because kids can say all kinds of things on social media that they’re afraid to say face-to-face and it can be very, very hurtful.”
We asked Diana Corral, “What would you say to the people who bullied your daughter?” She said, “Please change your ways because your ways are ugly. And I don’t want any other child to be hurt by your words, the way my daughter was. Keep your bad remarks to yourself. If you don’t like someone, then just leave them alone.”
One of Maya’s friends said Maya wasn’t perfect, and that she simply couldn’t ignore the bullies taunts, she kept replying to them.
No matter what Maya may have done to bother the bullies, her mother hopes they remember this for the rest of their lives.
She hopes they ask themselves: was it worth it?