Loss of sister, bullying possible factors in girl’s death

Published 10:52 pm Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fifteen-year-old Alex Moore fought many battles in her short life.

Her sister died in a freak accident less than two years ago, a devastating loss she never got over. She also lost a close cousin, and then last fall, her beloved pet dog.

The shy girl struggled with self-esteem and was teased by other kids for her weight, among other things.

While no one thing will ever explain why Alex made the decision she did Wednesday morning, her father believes a combination of things – the deaths in her family and the teasing – were factors.

Shortly before 7 a.m., Alex walked from her home off County Road 48 in Jemison to the nearby Interstate 65 overpass.

Once there, she jumped over the bridge into the southbound lane of traffic. She died from the impact.

Several drivers witnessed the incident, though no cars were involved.

The Chilton County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the death, has ruled the case a suicide.

On Thursday, Alex’s family and friends, including parents Jim and Jill Moore, were trying to make some sense of the tragedy.

Alex, whose full name is Jamey Alexandria Moore, left a note at home. Her father, Jim Moore did not want to talk about the note’s content but did say Alex never got over the loss of her sister, Lesley Anne Harris.

Harris died after stepping into live electrical wires following an automobile accident in August 2008. She was just 24.

Moore said his daughter felt the driver should have been held accountable for the accident.

“She never got closure for that,” he said. “That’s always just eaten her up.”

Moore said his daughter in the past had problems with bullies at school and on the bus.

“I thought we had addressed most of that,” Moore said. “We knew it was going on some, but to what extent, I didn’t know.”

He said his daughter struggled with her weight and issues with her self-confidence. Also, Moore said Alex didn’t have a lot of interaction with other kids outside church, but that “she would shine through that so well.”

In the past two days, students and other friends of Alex’s have suggested she was teased more severely than she ever let on.

“We didn’t know. She was more or less protecting the people who were tormenting her,” he said. “It looks like there were some issues of bullying.”

Moore said Alex was a good kid who offered to help her mother around the house the night before her death. He said she loved her country and animals.

Several Facebook groups were formed Wednesday and Thursday to allow friends and classmates to mourn and express their thoughts on the loss.

The largest group, Tears for Alex, had 1,400 “friends” Thursday night.

The student creator of the group wrote in the group’s description that Alex was teased daily: “Heartless people, our peers, teased her because she was not up to their standards. Well, not a lot of people are.”

Other comments recounted memories of the smart and quiet girl, who warmed up and made you laugh once you got to know her:

“I first met Alex when she was at the YMCA for summer camp years ago. She was bright, intelligent and a beautiful young lady. She could be so funny at times, and I loved having her as part of my group here,” wrote one commenter.

Another student wrote, “I talked to Alex every day that I saw her at lunch. She was one of the sweetest girls I have ever met.”

Law enforcement officials went to Jemison High School on Wednesday morning to let teachers, staff and students know what happened.

Every level was represented from Alabama State Troopers to Chilton County Sheriff’s Deputies to Jemison Police.

“We had support from every agency,” said Jemison High School Principal Alan Thompson. “I’m just so proud of how our community came together to help our students.”

Church youth ministers and pastors, school counselors and faculty members manned a counseling center for students throughout the day. Temporary private meeting rooms were set up in offices, classrooms and the auditorium.

Students were counseled in both individual and group sessions. About 20 to 25 students who knew the victim well sought individual counseling, Thompson estimated. Every student present was counseled in some way.

Many students have also missed class this week since the tragedy.

“The whole school gives our prayers and sympathy to the family,” Thompson said. “It’s a loss for us, too. We’re going to miss her.”

If any good comes from this horrible loss, Moore said he hopes parents will talk with their kids about what is going on in their lives and when kids come to any adult with problems, whether at home or in church or school, that they will be listened to.

“Whomever they tell needs to step up and take care of business,” he said. “This shouldn’t have happened.”

Alex’s visitation was Thursday night from 6-8 p.m. at Martin Funeral Home Chapel in Clanton. Funeral services will be Friday at 3 p.m. at Springville City Cemetery in Springville.

The Clanton Advertiser tried to reach Chilton County school officials for comment about the possible bullying at Jemison High School. Superintendent Keith Moore is out of town until Monday. Thompson could not be reached for further comment Thursday evening.

Sheriff Kevin Davis said Thursday afternoon he had no new information to share concerning his department’s investigation.