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Jury selection to begin in case of Fla. teen accused of beating girl over text messages

By Rafael Olmeda, Sun Sentinel –

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — No one is disputing what Wayne Treacy did to Josie Lou Ratley on March 17, 2010.

Enraged by a callous, dismissive text message, Treacy, then 15, nearly beat Ratley to death, knocking her to the ground and stomping on her head up to seven times, all the while wearing steel-toe boots that ensured maximum damage.

Lawyers will begin the process of picking jurors on Tuesday for Treacy’s first-degree attempted murder trial. The jurors will be asked to decide whether Treacy, who texted his violent plans to the victim and to two friends, was legally insane at the time of the attack. Opening statements are slated for July 10.

Now 17, Treacy has been held without bond in the juvenile section of the Broward Main Jail since he was arrested and charged as an adult. Ratley, now also 17, suffered irreparable brain damage and has no memory of the incident or the text message exchange that instigated it.

Ratley was a student at Deerfield Beach Middle School who, on the morning leading up to the beating, allowed her friend Kayla Manson, then 13, to use her cellphone to send a message to Treacy, then a student at Deerfield Beach High School.

Treacy had stayed home from school that day, but did not respond to Manson’s message until the phone was returned to Ratley. Although it can never be known with 100 percent certainty, investigators believe Ratley was the one who answered when Treacy sent his response.

The teens exchanged vulgar and profanity-laced messages with Ratley belittling Treacy for his interest in the younger Manson and Treacy defending himself with a combination of insults and open threats.

“You’re a — is getting f —- d up,” he wrote. “Wait for it. I will find you. I will mess you up. You will regret crossing me.”

The exchange continued, reaching a boiling point 15 minutes later when Treacy received a message brushing him off: “Stop txtn mi phone rapest n if u don’t care jus stop trying me k. N just go visit ur dead brother.”

It was, as Treacy called it, the wrong thing to say “to the worst person.”

Treacy’s brother, Michael Bell, 30, had committed suicide five months earlier, hanging himself from a tree outside a Pompano Beach church. Treacy saw the body before it was taken down, according to his lawyer.

Before then, Treacy was a promising high school student, enrolled Deerfield High’s International Baccalaureate magnet program that would have given him a head start in his college career. After Bell’s suicide, Treacy’s grades began to slip.

Treacy’s lawyer, Russell Williams, said his client suffered from post traumatic stress disorder but never got treatment. “Win or lose, there are no winners in this case,” Williams said. “It is tragic all around.”

In a recorded interrogation with Broward Sheriff’s Detective Shane Schroeder, Treacy said Ratley’s reference to the suicide was “not that bad. It’s just that it’s my dead brother … Usually when I get angry, it just goes away because I can just vent and stuff, but I don’t know. I couldn’t get the feeling to subside.”

Despite the threats he sent to Ratley and to his friends, Treacy told the detective he had no intention to do anything more than yell at Ratley after he tracked her down.

Prosecutors say his intention was clear. Treacy dressed in his brother’s clothes, including the steel-toe boots, and then bicycled three miles to Deerfield Middle to wait for the opportunity to confront Ratley, a girl he didn’t know personally. More than two hours after receiving the message that set him off, Treacy found Manson, who showed him where Ratley was standing at a campus bus stop.

Ratley never saw the attack coming.

Manson has been charged as a juvenile as an accessory to the crime. Her lawyers say she never saw the attack coming either. Proceedings against her will follow Treacy’s trial.

After the attack, Treacy told the detective that he didn’t remember the actual attack and only knew what he had done because others told him.

Because he was only 15 at the time of the attack, Treacy will not face the life sentence allowable for adults convicted of first-degree attempted murder. If Treacy is convicted, prosecutors say they will cap any possible sentence at 50 years.

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