SC 12-year-old girl found dead, classmates point to bullying
By WSAV-TV News
Twelve-year-old Celeste Wills
BEAUFORT, SC -
Twelve-year-old Celeste Wills was found dead at her home Wednesday afternoon.
Authorities are not saying how she died or whether bullying was behind her death, but classmates and family paid tribute to the young girl in a vigil at Robert Smalls Middle School in Beaufort.
"She was a great friend. She had a great personality, and I loved her laugh," Emalee Payne says.
In honor of her friend and classmate, Payne wore the slogan 'Bullying Stops Here' on her shirt to her late friend's vigil.
"It just kind of reminded me of her, and what I thought she went through, and kind of what I went through," Payne says.
Payne believes that if it weren't for bullying behind these walls, her sixth grade companion would not have taken her life.
"I think it was bullying and just her struggle through life," she says.
The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office says Wills was found dead in her home on Wednesday afternoon, though they will not say how she died. The family called Community Bible Church Pastor Ed Vernoy for counsel.
"There's nothing that we can point a finger at, nothing we can lay the blame on," Vernoy says of Wills' death.
The school district will not confirm or deny it either, and kept News 3 from speaking with the family in the vigil.
"The bullying hasn't stopped," Payne says. "For example, Celeste. She took her life 'cause she was bullied, and that's no way to resolve a problem."
However, Payne says bullying at the middle school runs rampant, and did not exclude her friend. Talk of bullying on Facebook involved Wills' mother, too. Earlier Thursday, she changed her profile picture to match the icon Payne sported on her shirt, 'Bullying Stops Here.' It's a message Payne likes to think Wills is smiling down on.
"She'd say 'You're my best friend and we'll always be together,'" Payne says.
She left a note for Celeste Wills for a quilt the school district will gift to the Wills family. She leaves a plea to end the cruelty in bullying she knows too well.
"It really hurts on the inside, and the bully never really knows what's going to happen to the person. So they shouldn't bully," Payne says.
As the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate, News 3 will bring you the latest information. The school district says Celeste Wills was an honor student, a musically gifted student, an office helper, and a friend.
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