A Tennessee high-schooler who committed suicide did so because he'd been outed online, according to his family.
Now, those same family members are calling upon law enforcement to arrest and charge the fellow students who allegedly cyberbullied Channing Smith, 16.
Smith's half-brother, Joshua, told NBC News that loved ones were initially unsure why Channing had taken his own life. But after some online sleuthing, he says he was able to put the pieces together.
Joshua says he learned Channing had sent explicit texts to another boy attending Coffee County Central High School. A girl who had previously dated Channing then allegedly shared those messages via Instagram and Snapchat.
“I think these kids need to be held accountable at some level,” he said.
The case has generated significant media attention. Singer Billy Ray Cyrus even performed at a memorial service.
Craig Northcott, Coffee County's district attorney, has come under fire for comments perceived as anti-gay. His office will play a role in determining whether any criminal charges are filed in the case, according to the Nashville Tennessean.
"Procedurally, no charging decisions have been made by my office nor has the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department asked for a decision since the investigation has not been completed," Northcott told the Tennessean in a written statement.
"When all relevant facts are available, my office will advise the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department on what charges, if any, we believe are appropriate to help guide it in that decision. Any report that my office has failed or refused to act is inaccurate and I wanted to clarify this for the sake of the Smith family as they do not need the added burden to the already incomprehensible pain that they are experiencing. I would ask for the everyone to extend their prayers for the family and to respect their privacy as this process moves forward."
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached around the clock by calling 800-273-8255. You can also visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/ to have an online chat with a crisis counselor.