Early Thursday, a couple hours before the sun rose in Cooperstown, N.D., 16-year-old Cassidy Joy Andel posted a note on her Facebook page:
"My time has come, and so I'm gone. To a better place, far beyond. I love you all as you can see. But it's better now, because I'm free."
She then hung herself in her home, apparently unable to cope with the nasty things being said about her through text messaging and the very social media network used to announce her own suicide.
Sheriff Bob Hook, whose Griggs County Sheriff's Office polices the 1,200-person community of Cooperstown, said the suicide is being investigated as a possible crime.
"It's definitely being looked at as a bullying situation," he said, lamenting in the next breath that North Dakota doesn't recognize bullying itself as a crime.
"This bullying has become almost an epidemic nationwide," Hook said, acutely recognizing that the issue had hit very close to home and may be responsible for a local girl's death.
Several members of the Sheriff's Department knew Cassidy's family, and Hook said the entire community 110 miles northwest of Fargo-Moorhead is taking the news hard but addressing it openly and promptly.
Cassidy's school held an all-school assembly about it Thursday. School officials, the Sheriff's Department and others addressed students, and counselors were made available, he said.
Bradley Cruff, the Griggs County state's attorney, who lives in Valley City, said news of Cassidy's suicide had quickly spread 40 miles to the south, where she has cousins and friends.
"Kids down here were communicating with her on Facebook last night and they're all devastated," he said.
Hook said his department is gathering facts in the case and hopes to talk to students who might know more in the coming week.
The nature of the comments or information that was bothering Cassidy are sketchy. A perusal of her Facebook page didn't reveal comments that were overtly harassing, but they could have been deleted.
The teen, who listed her favorite place as her bedroom and has 730 friends on the social networking site, often posted upbeat comments, even as recently as the day before she died.
But then there was this one posted Wednesday:
"If you don't like the way I am, then don't come around me. If you don't like the way that I talk, then don't listen. If you don't like the way I dress, then don't look. But don't waste my time telling me about it. I don't care."
Sheriff Hook said it's not uncommon for his department to field complaints about bullying or harassment using modern media. He urged parents to make greater efforts to keep an eye on what their children are doing on computers and phones.
"It's a trend our kids are going through," he said. "They communicate behind a screen. They text each other standing next to each other. They don't always realize that who they are writing to or about is a person."
Forum reporters Patrick Springer and Amy Dalrymple contributed to this report. Springer can be reached at (701) 241-5522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Readers can reach Forum Editor Matthew Von Pinnon at (701) 241-5579 or email@example.com