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Mother of bullied Florida girl seeks funeral donations

By Matthew Solan

TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) - The mother of a 12-year-old Florida girl who committed suicide last month apparently after being bullied at school and on the Internet, announced a crowd-funding effort in Tampa on Thursday to help pay for funeral expenses.

Accompanied by her legal team, including former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, a partner with the firm Morgan & Morgan, Tricia Norman said contributions to the Indiegogo.com campaign would help cover the $5,400 funeral bill for her daughter, Rebecca Ann Sedwick.

By midday, the campaign had raised $2,495, the website indicated.

Any funds that remain after the funeral expenses are paid will go to The Jaylens Challenge Foundation, an anti-bullying organization, Norman said.

"I am angry that I had to lose my daughter to bring this serious cause to light," she said.

Sedwick climbed a tower at an abandoned cement plant and jumped to her death in September after becoming despondent over repeated bullying in person and online, investigators said.

Two girls, ages 12 and 14, have been charged with felony aggravated stalking in the case, and a Florida sheriff said previously that many more girls were involved.

"There was quite a bit of piling on, although some of it might have been incidental," said David Henry, the managing partner at Morgan & Morgan's Winter Haven office.

Jose Baez, the Florida lawyer who successfully defended Casey Anthony on charges of killing her young daughter, is now representing the accused 12-year-old.

The two girls charged in the case called Sedwick names, intimidated her, threatened to beat her up and engaged in at least one physical fight with her, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said when the arrests were announced last week.

They sent online messages telling Sedwick that no one liked her and encouraging her to kill herself, he said. Sedwick was targeted apparently because she had previously dated the older suspect's boyfriend.

Henry said Sedwick's mother was exploring legal options that could focus on the suspects, their parents, the school and even the owner of the cement plant where the girl died.

(Editing by David Adams and Gunna Dickson)

(This story was refiled to correct title for David Henry in the eighth paragraph)

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