Girl's suicide a result of bullying, her Kingman family says

Social media assaults too much for middle school student Arionna Sanchez, 12

Arionna Sanchez, 12 and a student at Kingman Middle School, took her own life over the Thanksgiving break.

Courtesy<BR> Arionna Sanchez, 12 and a student at Kingman Middle School, took her own life over the Thanksgiving break.

KINGMAN - "She was strong."

Arionna Sanchez's older brother, Alex, made sure to emphasize how tough his sister was.

"She was going to be in the Army," he said. "She wanted to be a field medic. It's shocking that she's gone, that she did something like this. She was always happy. She was talkative. Had a big group of friends. She was really popular."

They were, Alex said, "best friends."

Arionna was a student at Kingman Middle School when she took her life over Thanksgiving break. She was 12 years old, and her family says she was the target of bullying both at school and over social media.

For a family that has had just a few days to grieve the passing of their daughter, sister or niece, it's clear that they're still processing such a devastating loss. Her siblings spoke of their feelings of anger and sadness, but they didn't cry when they spoke of her. They were emotionless at times, and at others struggled to find the words to describe her.

They always came back to how happy and strong she was.

Arionna's uncle, Malachi Flores, spoke of how Arionna would "do anything." She would fight and wrestle with her brother and sister. She'd throw a football and dress up. She loved to play volleyball.

"She was just awesome. A girl who loved her parents and family," said Flores.

"She was always happy. Playing. She was shy, but she was the strongest one out of all of us," said Alyssa, Arionna's older sister. "She never acted like anything was wrong. At first I was sad. I thought we did something wrong. We could have helped her. Now I'm just mad, because of all those kids and parents."

The family knows how much of a role cyberbullying played into Arionna's decision to take her own life. While she was getting bullied at school, there wasn't an escape from the tormenting when she got home. She used Facebook often to talk to her friends, and it was there that messages of malice would come in.

"It's so easy," said Johny Thompson, a cousin in the family. "It's easy to be a bully behind a screen or a phone. You can sit at home and pick away until someone breaks."

"I feel helpless," said Thompson, talking about being there for the family. "With Antonio (the father), you don't have the answers. I know how strong he is. He's one of the most resilient people I know. To see him hurt, quiet, it's not fair, it's not right. There's no reset button, no automatic fix. This family is the epitome of a tight family. They're together all the time. You wouldn't think in a million years she would be a victim."

Too little, too late

The Mohave County Sheriff's office is actively investigating the case, according to Mohave County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Trish Carter. While the school responded by posting anti-bullying posters and letting the family decorate Arionna's locker, Flores doesn't feel that it's enough.

"From what the school has done after the fact, it was too little, too late," he said. "You were already given information, and you couldn't do anything about it. They knew what was going on and failed to act."

Just after Arionna's death, Flores turned to the very medium that helped bring messages of cruelty and hatred to his niece's fingertips. His plea was towards those who bully, and to those who think their words don't carry consequences:

"Don't take your pain and project it onto others who have not hidden who they are from the world. If only you knew my beautiful niece: strong, motivated, and true to her being. But you didn't take the time to talk, be friends, and know the life that she wanted to live. All you saw was a threat to your false life.

"So instead of being honest to yourself first, you chose to hurt this beautiful young woman. Yet you failed to see the cause and effect of your action and it is not only the one person you are hurting. You are hurting families and friends."