The parents of a 14-year-old girl in Oregon are fighting to get their daughter's case reopened after she was convicted of attempted murder and arson and sentenced to 11 years in a juvenile detention center.
According to KEZI, Saraya Rees was arrested last year after she poured a small amount of gasoline in front of her parents' bedroom door. But her family was hoping to get help for the 14-year-old instead of seeing her arrested.
Saraya's mother, Shannon Rees, said her daughter was taking anti-depressants after facing severe bullying in school. A local pediatrician then took the teenager off of the medication, according to the family. Rees said she contacted a local health center to get help for her daughter, but police arrived instead to arrest the 14-year-old, KEZI reported.
"She never attempted to light the gas, she was calling out for help in the way her mind told her was best,” Rees told KEZI.
With more than 3,000 likes on a Facebook page created for the teenager, the parents are motivated to keep fighting for justice.
"We created this page to gather support against the injustice Coos County, Oregon served to our daughter," the family stated on the Justice4Saraya page.
There is also a Change.org petition regarding the case, which has already passed its goal of 100,000 signatures.
"Just in case you didn’t know…WE DID IT!" the family said on Facebook. "Saraya’s petition blew right through our goal number of 100,000 signatures! This has literally happened since Saturday morning! Just a few days! We are overwhelmed, shocked, and so damn grateful to every single one of you that has helped with this, in any way!"
Just in case you didn’t know… WE DID IT! Saraya’s petition blew right through our goal number of 100,000 signatures!…
According to the family's statement on the petition, Rees was "arrested, questioned without her parents or a lawyer present, charged with attempted murder and assault, and sentenced to 11 years in juvenile prison."
"Saraya remains incarcerated to this day with no mental health support and will be 25 years old when she is eligible for parole," the petition states. "This is not justice. This is inhumane."
District Attorney Paul Frasier said Saraya is mentally ill but was still aware of right and wrong during the incident.
“If she hadn’t been interrupted, she would’ve burned the house down and we would’ve had three dead people,” Frasier said.
The district attorney added that Saraya could be released earlier if she gets the necessary treatment and a judge permits her to leave.
"It wasn’t like we were like let’s lock her up and throw away the key,” Frasier told KEZI. “Let’s get her into a situation when she’s ready that she can have treatment.”
Rees said her daughter pleaded guilty because she was pressured into making a false confession. Prosecutors also prohibited the parents from speaking on Saraya’s behalf because they were considered the victims in the incident, the family said.
"She’s already been through so much,” Rees said. "I just don’t understand why they thought this was the best option for her."
Saraya's parents said their daughter has faced discrimination as a multi-racial person, adding to her struggles with mental health.
"She got called the N-word all the time — told how ugly she was and her face is ugly,” Rees said.
The Know Your Rights Camp, founded by Colin Kaepernick, has joined the effort to bring justice for Saraya.
"Mental illness is not a crime. Being Black is not a crime," the organization wrote on Instagram. "We demand justice and accountability!!"
View this post on Instagram
14-year-old Saraya Rees needed psychological help, so her parents contacted a local health center. Instead of providing her with mental health services, the center called POLICE. And we can all guess what happened next… Saraya was arrested, questioned without her parents or lawyer present, charged with attempted murder and assault, and sentenced to 11 years in juvenile prison. Today, Saraya behind bars with no mental health support!! Sign Saraya's Change.org petition (link in story) and demand Saraya's release from juvenile prison so she can finally get mental health treatment for her condition. Mental illness is not a crime. Being Black is not a crime. We demand justice and accountability!! #justice4saraya #sarayarees Via- @attorneycrump
According to The W World, protesters in Coos Bay came together earlier this month to advocate for a safer community and to demand justice for Saraya. Rees also attended the demonstration.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” she told The W World. “I feel hope for the first time.”
Click here if you'd like to help get justice for Saraya.