Uncovered evidence shows bullying was factor in Emilie Olsen's suicide

FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Ten days before 13-year-old Emilie Olsen shot herself in the head, she told a friend she was the target of mockery and had a plan to end her life.

“I’m causing all this trouble on Earth. And people look at me like I’m a freak and I’m tired of it,” she wrote to a fellow student at Fairfield Middle School in an online chat. “It hurts when you have to explain yourself to people you don’t know or like. You feel them judging you, staring at you, talking about you.

“I’ve made up my mind,” Emilie continued. “I wanna die. My New Year’s resolution is to…have my perfect suicide go as planned.”

On Dec. 11, 2014, police said the Fairfield Township teen sat in a chair on the second floor of her family’s home, put her father’s gun to her head and pulled the trigger.

Emilie Olsen's yearbook photo

The online conversation days before her death is one of several pieces of evidence uncovered by the I-Team that show Emilie was the victim of bullying.

Yet, four days after her suicide, Fairfield City School District administrators were confident enough to release this statement to parents and students:

“There have been many rumors and misinformation about bullying with regard to this tragedy. The district has never had an indication – by self-report, or reports from others – that bullying has ever occurred.”

Then, a few hours later, district officials issued a second response that said, "The middle school administration was advised of previous concerns regarding bullying, however, the district believed the issue had been resolved with the complete satisfaction of the family."

On Dec. 16 – one day later – Fairfield Township police officers closed their investigation into Emilie’s death, stating in their report they could not substantiate “information regarding a particular person or incident that constituted bullying recently.”

The I-Team found emails, school reports, a social media account and more that showed the exact opposite was true.

Dad to School: My Daughter is Being Targeted

Emilie had a difficult sixth grade.

Her father, 47-year-old Marc Olsen, wrote an email to school administrators Jan. 30, 2014 warning them Emilie had “become the target of bullying.”

He said he didn’t think much of it at first, but as time went on, he was becoming “very concerned.”

“Emilie mentioned two girls…she is having problems with,” he told the school in an email obtained by the I-Team. “From what I understand, there has already been physicality – kicking, pulling hair, etc. – between them. Unfortunately, it goes beyond that…I have a bad feeling that if nothing is done then this has the possibility to escalate into something worse.”

On Aug. 15, 2014, Marc emailed the school again. It was a week before Emilie started the seventh grade.

He notified the school Emilie was “uneasy” about the upcoming school year. He said she discovered several students “who had given her some grief (and) bullying back in the sixth grade” would be in her classes again.

He finished the letter by requesting Emilie be moved to a different schedule. The school complied with the request. Administrators told the I-Team they responded to Marc’s emails, but could not share the content of those emails due to student confidentiality laws.

WCPO's interview with Emilie's parents in December of 2014

Marc emailed administrators again on Sept. 8.

This time, he thanked them for meeting with Emilie, but said there were still problems.

“Emilie did say that (redacted name) is in one of her classes and she is making gestures/noises toward her that is making her very uncomfortable and disrupting her during class,” Marc wrote. “…We just don’t want to see an escalation occur if it can be avoided all together.”

According to her student file, school officials had concerns with Emilie’s academics and behavior in class in the seventh grade. The concerns led to conversations between administrators and her father on Oct. 17 and Oct. 23, 2014.

"I have a bad feeling that if nothing is done then this has the possibility to escalate into something worse." - Marc Olsen to school officials

Her grades were slipping, even though she was known as an A student.

“(The bullying) was taken care of in the sixth grade, but then it carried over,” Marc said in a media interview in December. “The kids followed her to the seventh grade in a new physical school and it started again.

“I thought it was addressed and it was done,” he continued. “But it wasn’t done.”

Dad Warned About Online Bullying

In his emails to the school, Marc specifically warned administrators about a “fake Instagram account” mocking his daughter.

The profile has since been removed from Instagram, but saved images of the account are still floating around the community. The I-Team obtained a screenshot of the profile, as seen below:

Screengrab from Instagram profile mocking Emilie

Titled, “EMILIE_OLSEN_IS_GAY,” the sexually explicit account included statements like: “I’m Emilie I’m Gay and I love to F*** random People in the Woods And I Love To chew Tobacco And If U wanna F*** just meet somewhere in the woods (sic).”

Marc told school officials about the fake profile a year before Emilie took her own life, writing, “we would appreciate you looking into this for us.”

“I plan to follow up with Instagram and attempt to have these things removed,” he wrote on Jan 30, 2014. “I looked at Instagram’s terms of service and they do not tolerate that type of behavior. My wife and I are deeply troubled by what is going on.”

Yet, when asked by the I-Team, Fairfield City School Superintendent Paul Otten said he had never seen this example of online bullying against Emilie.

Raw video of I-Team confronting Superintendent Paul Otten about Emilie's case.

Otten agreed to talk with the I-Team off-camera last week with Fairfield City Attorney John Clemmons by his side.

He said it was the first time anyone had showed him the Instagram.

“You’re assuming that when we get something (from parents) we start researching kids’ Instagram accounts and printing stuff off. I wasn’t aware of it,” he said.

According to the school district’s bylaws, all bullying incidents must be “reported immediately to the superintendent (so) appropriate discipline is administered.” The policy also states “the superintendent must provide the board president with a semiannual written report of all verified incidents of hazing and/or bullying.”

On Dec. 19 – eight days after Emilie’s death -- Otten released a letter to the community denying bullying played a role in the student’s suicide.

He said “rumors” referencing bullying were being fed by “false reports” and “misinformation.” He stated the police investigation “did not find any credible evidence that bullying was a factor in this tragedy.”

“It seems there is an unjustified need to place blame for this horrendous event,” he wrote.

Otten told the I-Team he still stands by that statement.

“I can assure you, I have four kids in this district. My kids’ friends are in this district. There is nothing for me to gain by hiding anything,” he said.


Why Didn’t Police See Emilie’s Student File?

Less than two months before Emilie killed herself, she was the subject of a fight in the school’s cafeteria, according to incident reports in her student file obtained by the I-Team.

The reports are each written by different students and detail a scene that involved profanity and shouting between multiple classmates on Oct. 21, 2014. School officials redacted the names of the students who wrote the reports.

Below are excerpts from the reports:

  • STUDENT 1: “We were just telling the people to stop messing with Emilie Olsen and then she started calling people names and I got mad and told them not to call her that and she said she ain’t afraid of me.”
  • STUDENT 2: “Alright, so last year in the sixth grade this girl was getting bullied like bad and my sister just heard about it so she went up to the girl and tries to be nice about it and all but then the girl (redacted) starts yelling at her and cussing at her!”
  • STUDENT 3: “People last year were messing with the girl…and then it turned into a big fight…It was awful last year and people are still doing it this year and (we were) just telling them to stop.”
  • STUDENT 4: “(They) asked me if I said for their friend to kill themselves last year. They were following me around asking me if I really did it. I said ‘no’ and she said ‘if you’re lying I will find you and fight you.’”

The I-Team took these incident reports and other evidence to Fairfield Township Police Chief Matthew Fruchey and Sgt. Doug Lanier last week. Both men said it was the first time they had ever heard about the documents, the Instagram account and Marc’s emails to administrators.

Lanier said detectives went to the school after Emilie’s death and asked administrators and the school’s resource officer if Emilie had a history of bullying or was involved in any incidents related to bullying. He said the school told them “no.”

“We took them at their word and didn’t ask to see her file,” Lanier said. “We thought there was no reason to.”

According to the department’s official report, Fairfield Middle School Principal Lincoln Butts told detectives “at no time had Emilie reported any bullying to him or any other school officials this year.”

Fruchey said Fairfield Township police opened an investigation after Emilie’s death to determine if there were any “drivers” that would have motivated her to commit suicide.

Despite never seeing or asking for her school file, detectives closed the case in five days.

“We found no concrete evidence of bullying,” Fruchey said. “We were never given any reason to look in her file…our investigation never took us in that direction.”

“I can assure you, I have four kids in this district. My kids’ friends are in this district. There is nothing for me to gain by hiding anything." - Superintendent Paul Otten

The same day they closed the case, detectives visited the Olsens at their home. According to the police report, officers “attempted to advise them what some of (their) investigation had uncovered,” but the Olsens told them, “if it was about her not being bullied, they weren’t going to listen.”

Police said the Olsens then told them to leave.

The I-Team asked Superintendent Otten and City Attorney Clemmons why they didn’t share Emilie’s file with police.

Their answer: Police didn’t ask for it.

“My belief is we gave them what they needed, what they asked for,” Otten told the I-Team. “We didn’t have a file that was like, ‘Don’t show that to anyone.’ We don’t have something that we’re trying to hide.”

Both Otten and Clemmons said they wouldn’t change how they handled the investigation.

“We cooperated fully with the police department to the extent that we believed our cooperation was being requested and sought,” Clemmons said. “We cooperated with their investigation the best way we knew how.”

‘Red Flags’ in How Case Was Handled

Covington Defense attorney Brad Fox reviewed the evidence in Emilie’s death investigation at the request of the I-Team.

Fox, who has handled multiple legal cases involving bullying, noted some “serious concerns” and “red flags” with Emilie’s case and the school’s response. 

Fairfield City School Superintendent Paul Otten

"Was there bullying? Was there a past with this student? Were there discipline problems? If these are sitting in (Emilie’s) file, and they weren't handed over, that's a problem,” he said. “You would think (the school) would have handed over the whole file, especially when the police were there interviewing other students."

Fox criticized Otten’s Dec. 19 letter to the community, which stated there was “no credible evidence that bullying was a factor in this tragedy.”

“To say there is no credible evidence when you're sitting on a file that has concerning emails from a father about Instagram harassment, and some fight or something that took place six weeks before the death…is a little concerning for the school,” he said.

The I-Team contacted Emilie’s parents for comment. Marc said he could only release the following statement:

"Our hearts have broken again after hearing how this could have been prevented. We will not remain silent anymore."

He then referred us to his attorneys, who did not respond to phone calls.

Bullying and Suicide Resources

The Family Violence Prevention Project

Greater Cincinnati Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network

Cincinnati Children's Anti-Bullying Curriculum

The Girls Guide to End Bullying

StopBullying.gov -  Ohio anti-bullying laws & policies

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Ohio Suicide Hotlines

Cincinnati Children's 'Surviving the Teens' Suicide Prevention program