Austin L. Miller, Ocala, January 7, 2012
Sitting across from their parents or guardians, five girls and two boys faced a judge Saturday afternoon, a day after they were arrested by Marion County sheriff’s deputies for the severe beating of a 13-year-old girl on a school bus that left the girl hospitalized.
Hours before the seven youths — ages 12 through 15 — saw the judge, the victim, who was taken to an undisclosed hospital, was released from the facility and is recuperating at her home.
Authorities said the injured child was beaten multiple times and was treated at the hospital for a concussion, muscle spasms and a serious head bruise.
Inside the makeshift courtroom at the Marion County Jail, Assistant State Attorney John Zaleskie asked Judge Frances King to detain the youths due to what the prosecutor described as “extreme violence” and injuries suffered by the victim until their arraignment.
One of the juveniles, a 13-year-old, was seen clasping his mother’s hand, as the woman told the judge, “I wish I could’ve been on the bus.”
According to sheriff’s deputies, the beating occurred on the school bus around 7:30 a.m. on the way to school.
Authorities said there were approximately 74 children on the bus.
Authorities said the bus driver told them he was driving to school when a fight broke out.
He said he stopped the bus, and the fight stopped.
The driver said the fight resumed after he started driving again.
Unable to stop the fight, the driver drove to an elementary school and reported the incident to school officials, who called police.
The victim told deputies it was her first day on the school bus and no one wanted to give her a seat.
The teenager said someone threw a shoe at her and she threw the shoe back, and then was attacked by several people.
Authorities said some of the youths told them they did not hit the girl, while others admitted to hitting the teen.
One of the seven told a deputy she climbed over four seats and several students to get to the victim. Another said she punched the victim in the head 10 to 15 times because the girl allegedly called her a name.
[Editor’s Note: The assailants are 14-year-old Zantavia Williams, 14-year-old Ladricka James, 12-year-old Javaris Beard, 13-year-old Alphonso Young, 12-year-old Bria Watkins, 13-year-old Lamiracle Mackey, and 15-year-old Jebria Welch, according to this report. Also, a mother of one of the suspects accuses the victim of making “racial comments.”]