Broward County

3 young lives cross path of tragedy

His own father out of his life, bouncing in and out of jail, Wayne Treacy looked to his older brother as a father figure -- until his brother committed suicide in October.

Josie Lou Ratley adored art, especially drawing. She didn't have too many friends, having moved to Deerfield Beach just a year ago with her mother.

On Friday, 15-year-old Treacy and his 13-year-old ex-girlfriend sat in the juvenile detention center -- Treacy accused of attempted murder; his ex-girlfriend as a principal.

And 15-year-old Ratley was in a drug-induced coma, hooked to machines, following surgery to remove a portion of her skull after investigators say Treacy savagely beat and kicked her with his steel-toed boot.

Ratley is a "sweet little girl," said her aunt, Linda Sarmiento. Her family took pride in her art work, and she was especially good at drawing, despite a slight disability.

Treacy grew up in a Pompano Beach mobile home with his mother and big brother, said his lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Betsy Benson.

His father, Wayne Parker Treacy, bounced in and out of jails, accruing 43 arrests in Florida since 1981, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

But Treacy stayed out of legal trouble and enrolled in Deerfield Beach High School, where he was in ninth grade, Benson said.

Two days after Treacy turned 15, his brother, Michael Bell, hung himself in the parking lot of the New Covenant Church in Pompano Beach. Their mother, Donna Powers, told deputies that Bell had been depressed about losing his job and his divorce. She added that he had talked about killing himself before, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office report.

"They were trying to cobble their lives back together," Benson said. ‘‘And this is just another blow that they're unable to even verbalize right now. They are all in shock."

Treacy barely, if at all, knew Josie Lou Ratley.

Ratley had moved to Deerfield Beach with her mother from Crystal River, Sarmiento said. She started at her new middle school in the spring of seventh grade.

Wednesday morning, Ratley kissed her mother goodbye and left for school.

That afternoon, she got a text message from Treacy, who was trying to reach his ex-girlfriend, 13-year-old Kayla Manson. Manson didn't have a cellphone but had borrowed Ratley's phone before to contact Treacy.

Ratley disapproved of the relationship and told Treacy that via text message. They swapped messages back and forth until Ratley made a comment about Treacy's brother.

Detectives declined to specify what she wrote, but it sent Treacy into a rage.

Treacy pulled on his steel-toe boots, bicycled over to Deerfield Beach Middle School and pummeled Ratley against the concrete, kicking her in the head up to seven times, until a teacher pulled him away, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office.

Treacy, charged with attempted premeditated murder, and Manson, charged as a principal, remain in custody. Investigators charged Manson because she knew about the planned attack and helped Treacy find Ratley, even pointing Ratley out in a crowd, according to BSO.

Manson appeared in court on Friday, where a judge ordered her held for 21 days.

After the hearing, Jonathon Marne, Manson's lawyer, said that she and Ratley were best friends, and the family wished Ratley a speedy recovery.

Sarmiento said she had never heard of Manson and her niece being friends until Friday.

Ratley's mother, Helda Gotay Ratley, stayed by her daughter's bedside at Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale.

Dr. Mayra Dominguez, an emergency room pediatrician, explained that doctors had to remove a piece of Ratley's skull to reduce pressure from brain swelling.

The early days will be critical to how Ratley does, Dominguez said.

When asked if doctors had hope, Dominguez responded, "She's a child, and we're always optimistic."

The family's lawyer, Rick Freedman, said the Ratleys don't have private health insurance.

"Please say a prayer for Josie," Freedman said. ‘‘And please have an age appropriate discussion with your children about what happened to Josie. Speak to your children tonight. Communicate with them."

Miami Herald researcher Rachael Lee Coleman contributed to this report.

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