MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. (WSVN) - The Florida Department of Children and Families released a report on Monday alleging, among other things, that a South Florida mother may have seen her daughter’s suicide, which she broadcast on Facebook Live, earlier this year.
However, the mother’s attornys rejected the claim, saying the report presents inaccuracies and omits important information.
Investigators said 14-year-old Naika Venant broadcast herself on Facebook Live for nearly three hours, Jan. 22, expressing her thoughts about ending her life as hundreds watched. Some encouraged her to seek help while others called her names and said it was an act, investigators said.
Eventually, she hanged herself live on the broadcast.
In the report, investigators allege that Venant’s mother, who identified herself to 7News as Gina Alexis, watched the broadcast for nearly two hours.
But one of her attorneys, Howard Talenfeld, indicated his client did not see her daughter’s suicide. “Mom did not know that Naika had committed suicide. She did not witness this online,” he said.
“The report released by DCF wrongfully places blame on me for the death of my daughter,” said Alexis through her attorney, Stacie Schmerling. “I did not witness the online suicide of my daughter and I had no idea it occured until after she had passed away.”
According to the report, a Facebook account under the name Gina Alexis posted during the broadcast, “#ADHD games played u sad little DCF custody (kid) that’s why u where u at for this dumb (expletive) n more u keep crying wolf u dead u will get buried life goes on after a (kid) trying to be grown seeking boys and girls attention instead of her books.”
Talenfeld, however, reiterated Alexis was not online in the moments before Venant took her own life. “Mom’s understanding was that this did not take place and that Naika was, unfortunately, acting out,” he said.
The attorney added that the mother posted about it afterwards using some tough language because she had been told it was not true. “Mom did not know that the suicide was taking place, and in fact, after the suicide had taken place, Mom was told that this was a hoax and that, in fact, Naika had not committed suicide,” said Talenfeld.
Venant was living in a foster home in Miami Gardens at the time.
Days after Venant’s death, Alexis fought back tears as she sat next to her attorneys and criticized DCF and the foster care system for not doing enough to prevent her child’s death. “I had trusted Florida’s foster care people to care for my baby. Instead, she killed herself on Facebook,” she said as she broke down.
The report also alleges the victim had a history of sexual abuse and neglect. However, Talenfield said these allegations are lacking facts and information.
Alexis’ attorneys said they have requested records regarding Venant’s history and treatment while in foster care. They said they are trying to get to the truth about what led to the teens suicide.
Investigators have not said whether Alexis will be charged. 7News is awaiting comment from DCF officials.
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