Eight days after allegedly being sexually battered while passed out at a party, and then humiliated by online photos of the assault, 15-year-old Audrie Pott posted on Facebook that her life was ruined, “worst day ever,” and hanged herself.
For the next eight months, her family struggled to figure out what happened to their soccer-loving, artistic, horse-crazy daughter, with a gentle smile, long dark hair and shining eyes.
And then on Thursday, seven months after the tragedy, a Northern California sheriff’s office arrested three 16-year-old boys on charges of sexual battery.
“The family has been trying to understand why their loving daughter would have taken her life at such a young age and to make sure that those responsible would be held accountable,” family attorney Robert Allard said. “After an extensive investigation that we have conducted on behalf of the family, there is no doubt in our minds that the victim, then only 15 years old, was savagely assaulted by her fellow high school students, while she lay on a bed completely unconscious.”
Allard said students used cell phones to share photos of the attack, and that the images went viral.
Santa Clara County Sheriff’s lieutenant Jose Cardoza said it arrested two of the teens at Saratoga High School and the third, a former Saratoga High student, at Christopher High School in Gilroy on Thursday. The names of the suspects were not released because they are minors.
Cardoza said the suspects were booked into juvenile hall and face two felonies and one misdemeanor each, all related to sexual battery that allegedly occurred at a Saratoga house party.
The lieutenant said the arrests were the result of information gathered by his agency’s Saratoga High School resource officers. He said the investigation is ongoing, and Los Gatos police also continue looking into the girl’s suicide in September last year.
As a rule, the Associated Press does not identify victims of sexual assault. However, in this case, Pott’s family wanted her name and case known, Allard said. The family also provided a photo to reporters.
The girl’s family members did not comment and have requested privacy until a planned news conference on Tuesday. Her father and stepmother, Lawrence and Lisa Pott, along with her mother, Sheila Pott, have started the Audrie Pott Foundation (audriepottfoundation.com) to provide music and art scholarships and offer youth counseling and support.
The foundation Web site alludes to the teen’s struggles, but until now neither law enforcement, school officials nor family have discussed the sexual battery.
“She was compassionate about life, her friends, her family, and would never do anything to harm anyone,” the site says. “She was in the process of developing the ability to cope with the cruelty of this world, but had not quite figured it all out. Ultimately, she had not yet acquired the antibiotics to deal with the challenges present for teens in today’s society.”
On the day Pott died, Saratoga High School principal Paul Robinson announced her death, stunning classmates.