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Two charged in beating of girl on school bus

The 14-year-old victim was flown to Tampa General with head injuries. The two teen suspects face felony charges.

By CARRIE JOHNSON and BARBARA BEHRENDT

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001


CRYSTAL RIVER -- A Crystal River Middle School student was beaten on a school bus on her way to school Thursday morning, causing head injuries severe enough to prompt officials to have her airlifted to Tampa General Hospital.

Two suspects were arrested in the assault. Kaileen Burke, 14, is accused of felony battery, and Matthew Harriman, 15, is accused of acting as a principal to felony battery in the first degree.

According to arrest reports, Harriman encouraged Burke to beat up 14-year-old Amanda Curry of Homosassa. Harriman and Curry were formerly boyfriend and girlfriend, according to the report.

Several witnesses told police they saw Burke strike Curry between six and 20 times in the head until she lost consciousness while Harriman shouted encouragement.

School officials were investigating the incident throughout the day, interviewing other students who were on the bus. The driver, a substitute, reported that he had not seen the student being beaten and that no other students had mentioned the assault to him.

Curry walked into the school and into the school clinic, where her injuries finally came to light, according to transportation supervisor Linda Fultz.

"There was an incident on one of our buses this morning and when we sought a medical determination, it was decided that the student be transported to Tampa General because she met the criteria for possible head trauma," said Bonnie Hardiman, director of student services.

Several hours later, officials got a call from the girl's family and learned that she was up and walking around. "That's very promising," Hardiman said. "There was certainly a time period when there was a grave concern."

Gail Tierney, spokeswoman for the Citrus County Sheriff's Office, said that protocol dictated Curry be airlifted in a case such as this.

Hardiman noted that there may have been some students who did not alert the driver to the incident. Fultz said the driver had seen students standing up on the bus as he was traveling toward the school. He ordered them to sit down and they did. At no time did they tell him about the assault, and the student who was beaten also didn't tell him, according to Fultz.

"This sub driver didn't know that anything had happened," she said, noting that the normal protocol when a fight breaks out is for the bus driver to pull over and call for help. All of the buses have radios.

Crystal River police and deputies from the Sheriff's Office conducted interviews of the students Thursday afternoon. Burke and Harriman were arrested at 2:45 p.m.

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