TEXAS CITY, Texas — After a yearlong investigation into the cyberbullying death of Brandy Vela, the Texas City Police Department and U.S. Marshals have made an arrest.
Vela’s former boyfriend Andres Arturo Villagomez, 21, of Galveston and his current girlfriend Karinthya Sanchez Romero, 22, were arrested on Thursday. Villagomez was charged with unlawful disclosure or promotion of intimate visual material and Sanchez was charged with stalking and online impersonation.
Villagomez is currently being held on a $2,500.00 bond and Romero is being held on two bonds totaling $20,000.00.
"It's very hard, she had a lot of goals and one of her plans was to become a veterinarian. She had so many things that she wanted to do in life. So, those goals were cut short." Said Brandy Vela's father, Raul Vela said.
Brandy Vela, 18, shot herself in front of her parents after being relentlessly cyberbullied. The Texas teen, who was described by her school as well-liked and friendly, was buried Dec. 7, 2016. By Friday, someone had opened a social media page in her memory, but it was quickly filled with disturbing posts about her; the cyberbullying literally following her to the grave.
“Two days after her funeral, somebody opened up a social media page in her name and people thought the family did it. It started with people putting sincere condolences but after a few minutes, either four people or the same person posting four times said some things harassing Brandy about being a big fat cow, writing ‘you finally did it’ with a picture of a gun, writing ‘you’re a coward,’ ‘you should have done this a long time ago,’ some really horrific things,” Raul Vela, father of Brandy Vela said.
One of the posts shows a smiling Brandy with the words “my face when you shoot yourself in front of your family.” Another is a stick figure holding a gun with the words, “oops am I dead?” A third shows a gun hidden inside a book.
“People are more likely to write horrible things when they think they’re being anonymous,” said psychologist Susan Swearer, co-founder of the Bullying Research Network. “From a psychological perspective, people who write horrible things about other people, particularly after they’ve passed away, they have their own mental health issues.”
Vela did the right thing by reporting the social media pages to authorities, Swearer said.
Now Raul is thankful the police found the alleged culprits.
“To my family, that means a lot. You know, it's part of the justice process but at the same time it gives us back our sense of security and now we know who the cowards were. It's not justice for her yet but it is the first step to her justice,” Vela said.