Who Failed Phoebe Prince?
High school was hell for 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, but it didn’t have to be deadly.
Yet the story that some tell is that Phoebe’s parents were separating, and that Anne had retreated to the U.S. to be near her sister, Eileen, who lives in Springfield with her husband, John, and their two children. Anne rented a duplex on Newton Street in South Hadley, got a job as a junior high English teacher, and bought the girls a small white dog.
At first, Phoebe seemed to enjoy being the new girl among a group of teenagers who had known each other for most of their lives. She was beautiful: pale and petite, with wavy brown hair, a wide smile, and expressive blue eyes. She dressed for fun and in full color; she liked T-shirts and miniskirts. And the accent — the other kids were always trying to get her to say something so they could hear the lovely lilt. “Phoebe was undeniably gorgeous,” says Eadaoin Larkin, a close girlfriend back home in Ireland. “She had a great sense of humor, she was fun to be around, she was a very smart girl, and she was very passionate…. Girls envied her.” Boys, says Eadaoin, loved everything about her.
“She got popular quick,” says friend Tara Berard, a South Hadley freshman. “All the guys wanted to talk to Phoebe. Everyone wanted to talk to Phoebe.” Phoebe went with her new friends to football games and movies. She listened to techno music and joked about how everyone in Ireland smells like cabbage. She talked of starting a school rugby team. “Phoebe had an opinion of everything; she was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met,” says friend Katie Gingras, a fellow freshman. “She thought the U.S. was one of the best places, but I know she missed all of her friends in Ireland a lot, too.”
A couple of months into the fall semester, Phoebe began a brief relationship with Sean Mulveyhill, a senior who captained the football team and was a local sports legacy. Popular and accustomed to female attention, Sean was something of a score. He had dated (and some say never stopped dating) Kayla Narey, a pretty blond junior, herself a star athlete. Shortly before Phoebe’s 15th birthday, in November, Sean reunited with Kayla, and suddenly Phoebe found herself on the wrong side of the popular crowd.
That’s when the name-calling began, according to the authorities, who conducted a three-month investigation into Phoebe’s death. Stupid bitch, Irish slut, Irish whore, ho. Fucking ho. “Close your legs,” Ashley Longe, a round-faced junior, allegedly spat. For more than two months, the comments came almost daily. Phoebe’s once-cheerful gait along her regular route — through the library, past the cafeteria, and out the heavy metal front doors toward home — soon became a shuffle. She laughed less and less, for fear of attracting even more attention. “Whore,” authorities say Ashley called out. “I hate stupid sluts.”
Ashley and Sean had been friends since childhood. Though they had never dated, Ashley was proud of their friendship. And unlike Kayla, a high-honors student and all-star field hockey player, Ashley did have something to prove. She was average. She was never going to be as pretty or smart as either Kayla or Phoebe.
Flannery Mullins, a high-honors sophomore and decorated equestrienne, soon had some business of her own with Phoebe. Phoebe had been talking, maybe more, to Flannery’s sometime-boyfriend, junior Austin Renaud. Flannery began to corner Phoebe in the bathrooms and chase her through the halls, yelling “Irish slut” and warning Phoebe to stay away from her boyfriend, authorities say. She was overheard saying “that freshman Phoebe girl” “should get her ass kicked.” Flannery’s best friend, Sharon Chanon Velazquez, a junior, offered to punch Phoebe in the face.