A fourteen-year-old Michigan girl died by suicide November 8 after schoolmates bullied her due to a rape allegation involving her and an 18-year-old schoolmate.
The only things that are truly clear at this point are:
- Samantha Kelly, 14, had sex with Joseph Tarnopolski, 18, at his home on September 26.
- June Justice, Kelly’s mother, filed a criminal complaint with the local police department.
- Local police interviewed both Kelly and Tarnopolski.
- Kelly’s statements changed over time – at one point she said she was a willing participant, at another she said she was coerced.
- The police arrested Tarnopolski for third-degree criminal sexual conduct (regardless of Kelly’s mindset, she was too young to legally consent), then released him on bail.
- Tarnopolski then Tweeted to his classmates that “All girls are, are liars and backstabbers! I hate you all. Way to ruin my life. Seriously, now this will be on my record for life!”
- Neighbors and students divided themselves along pro-Kelly and pro-Tarnopolski lines and the latter faction terrorized Kelly.
- Justice and Kelly approached the media to protest/publicise Kelly’s maltreatment by schoolmates and neighbors. During this interview, Kelly’s face was obscured but Justice’s was not.
- Kelly’s maltreatment intensified.
- Kelly scrawled a note on her bedroom wall, the date of the of the sexual event, then hung herself in her family’s mobile home on November 8.
Tarnopolski says that he and Kelly planned the consensual sexual encounter together and that nothing like coercion was involved. The state of Michigan’s age of consent is 16. Kelly’s mother insists her daughter was “forcibly made to have sex with an 18 year old.” The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office has dropped the case against Tarnopolski because their only witness, Kelly, is dead, and they have no other evidence.
Tarnopolski says he feels “a little bit” bad about Kelly’s suicide but that her parents are responsible, not him. Justice says that she encouraged her daughter to speak to the police about the incident to prevent emotional suffering caused by bottling up a rape.
Tarnopolski says that he’s not the one who disregarded a confidentiality agreement he and Kelly were going to sign that would kept the event quiet, protecting them both. I can’t find a reference to Justice acknowleding a confidentiality agreemnet was arranged.
Justice does say she and her daughter approached the media because Kelly was being terrorized by neighbors and classmates and they couldn’t get help anywhere else. Tarnopolski said he was unaware of any maltreatment until after the news broadcast, but that even afterwards neither he nor his friends terrorized Kelly.
Justice’s reaction to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office dropping the case against Tarnopolski, from a local news broadcast:
Another report from a local news outlet, this one includes a brief interview with Tarnopolski:
A local news outlet’s longer interview with Tarnopolski and his attorney:
Even though I’ve had a first-hand taste of the battle Kelly was fighting (topic for another post) . . . After reading the articles linked at the end of this post and after watching the videos above — especially the interview with Tarnopolski and his attorney — I was almost, almost, just this close to giving Tarnopolski the benefit of the doubt, extremely poor judgement and suicide girl notwithstanding.
Then I found out that another, similar, criminal complaint involving another underaged girl was filed against Tarnopolski two days after Justice and Kelly were interviewed by a local news station about the harrassment.
Think about that for a minute: Two days after a victim publizes the unimaginable level of harrassment that would soon drive her to suicide, another underaged girl comes forward to say something to the effect of “I, too, was raped by Joseph Tarnopolski”?
Local police have referred the second case to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office which isn’t releasing any information except they’re processing it. Tarnopolski has since withdrawn from school due to threatening e-mails that have left his family afraid to leave their home.
To think I was ready to give this speaking filth the benefit of the doubt! This piece of gangrenous humanity is only 18, and it’s already clear that he’s a victimizer, a predator.
Here’s where I’m reduced to a lesser person than I aspire to be most days, but so be it . . . I am glad that his tormentors have caused him to leave school. I am fucking overjoyed that his family is afraid to leave their home. Honestly, I hope that, after he is imprisoned, they have to move a thousand miles away and change their family name to escape what he’s done. Justice has a dead daughter, so the Tarnopolski’s would still be better off.
I desperately hope the other girl can find the strength within herself to stand proud, and to say it loud, that “I, too, was raped by Joseph Tarnopolski!”
A memorial to Kelly, created by a friend:
Additional sources used as background for this post:
- Rape Case Dropped Following Samantha Kelly’s Suicide
- Joe Tarnopolski Talks with FOX 2’s Taryn Asher
- Alleged Rape Victim, 14, Taunted, Kills Self
- Rape Charge Against Huron High School Teen Dropped After Classmate’s Suicide