Friends, community gather to remember Marion student

Braylee Rice
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Investigators are trying to figure out the circumstances surrounding a death at school when a 14-year-old girl hanged herself on the bleachers.

Dozens of students and their parents gathered Monday night to remember daughter, classmate, and friend Braylee Rice.

McCulloch Junior High in Marion is a school and community looking for answers in the midst of their grief.

"Gut wrenching. I didn't want to believe it at first," said Dan Dye.

Rice died Monday morning after hanging herself with a neck tie from the bleachers near the school's track.

"I didn't know this girl from any other little girl in the world, but this kind of thing right here shocks you right to the core. It breaks your heart into a million little pieces," said parent Amanda Gray, who came to the vigil at the school.

Students and parents circled the school, remembering Braylee with prayers.

From there, hundreds gathered and brought mementos to the spot on the bleachers where she died.

"It's just tragic," said student Nicholas Renshaw.

"I think Braylee was a bright young lady and she shoulda kept her head up," added Sharice Bilbee.

According to investigators, the young woman did not leave a suicide note and school officials still don't know how she was able to sneak out of the school and get outside to the track.

Administrators said they don't believe bullying was part of the tragedy, but many students disagreed, saying they had seen Braylee, who often wore goth attire, bullied by other students.

"Really, bullying has to stop," said Renshaw.

"The bullying is constantly...I don't care what that superintendent said," said parent Greg Gifford, who said his daughter had been bullied before at the school.

"For a 14-year old, it should never be that hard," said parent Misty Ringo.

Whatever led Rice to take her own life, though, those who knew her said it didn't have to happen.

Grief counselors will be on hand all week to help students cope with the tragedy. The investigation continues as to what could have driven this young woman to commit suicide.