MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. (WSVN) - Authorities are investigating after a teenage girl from Miami Gardens committed suicide by hanging herself while broadcasting on Facebook Live, the Florida Department of Children and Families confirmed.
According to the Miami Herald, a spokesperson from the Florida Department of Children and Families said 14-year-old Naika Venant was in the care of a foster family at the time of her death. The incident, shown on Facebook Live, occurred in a bathroom at Venant’s home, early Sunday morning, according to an incident report.
According to the Herald, a friend of Venant witnessed the live stream and called Miami-Dade Police, accidentally providing an address in the City of Miami.
When Miami Gardens Police finally arrived to the correct address, the teen was found unresponsive and rushed to a nearby hospital, where she died.
Speaking from the offices of the Talenfeld Law firm, Wednesday afternoon, the teen’s grief-stricken biological mother addressed reporters. “I’m Gina Alexis, and Nakia was my baby girl,” she said.
Alexis said she was horrified by the video posted on Facebook by her daughter under the name “Hothead Nikee.” The heartbroken parent, who initially lost custody of Venant when the child was 7 years old, has since hired children’s rights attorneys Howard Talenfeld and Stacie Schmerling.
“I trusted Florida’s foster care people to care for my baby. Instead she kills herself on Facebook,” said Alexis.
Officials said Alexis lost custody of Venant following allegations of physical abuse. While in foster care, they added, the teen was sexually abused by a boy twice her age.
Venant’s life then became a cycle of foster care and mental health issues, reuniting with her mother and then running away.
Alexis broke down in tears as attorney Howard Talenfeld described the difficulties his client faced when attempting to find out what had happened to Venant. “People were calling her. They were telling her, ‘Something is going on.’ She didn’t know,” said Talenfeld. “She called the hospital. She called CFCE (Center for Family and Child Enrichment), the case manager, no response. And then she started getting word that her daughter was hanging herself on a livestream feed on Facebook.”
Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Venant had shown great promise. “This was a high-achieving kid in school,” he said. “There was no evidence that, academically, this child was struggling.”
Carvalho said Venant kept being moved from one foster home to another. “What we did notice, also, was movement of this child from school to school as a result in shifts in foster assignment, and that’s something I believe ought to be looked at.”
Attorneys blamed a privatized system that didn’t give the teen the therapy she needed. They said Venant moved more than 10 times in the past eight months.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said:
“We are absolutely horrified and devastated by the news of this young girl’s death. We will do everything we can to support this family and all those who cared for her as they begin to heal from this tragedy. We will conduct a comprehensive, multidisciplinary special review to examine this child’s history and the circumstances related to serving the child.”
Venant’s final post has since been deleted.
This Facebook Live incident is similar to another teenager who livestreamed her suicide on Dec. 30, 2016.
Alexis’ attorneys said they do not yet know whether or not they will file any lawsuits in this case.
Two other foster children share the home where Venant lived at the time of her suicide. They remain at that residence.
The Florida Department of Children and Families urges anyone thinking about suicide to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a 24/7 toll-free, confidential support line. A free crisis text message service is available by texting 741-741. DCF also has a crisis support resource page on their website.
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