MYRTLE POINT, Ore. -- Saraya Rees, 14, was arrested on counts of attempted murder and arson last year. However, her family is adamant that she did nothing wrong.
Her mother, Shannon Rees, said her daughter was on anti-depressants due to severe bullying in school. In July 2019, she was abruptly taken off the medication by a local pediatrician.
One night, Rees said her daughter poured a small amount of gasoline in front of her parent’s bedroom door. She said she believes it had to do with withdrawal of anti-depressants.
“Saraya was in psychosis,” said Rees. “She checked out, she was there but there but nobody was there.”
Rees said she called Coos Health and Wellness, expecting a crisis councilor to help. However, the police showed up instead.
“She never attempted to light the gas, she was calling out for help in the way her mind told her was best,” said Rees.
District attorney Paul Frasier told KEZI 9 News that they determined that Saraya had a mental illness, but she was still aware of what was right and what was wrong that night.
He said she even admitted an intent to kill her mother, her stepfather and her younger sister.
“It wasn’t like we were like let’s lock her up and throw away the key,” said Frasier. “Let’s get her into a situation when she’s ready that she can have treatment.”
Saraya eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 11 years in the Oregon Youth Authority. She will be eligible for parole on her 25th birthday.
Frasier said she could get out earlier if a judge determines she got the treatment she needed.
However, Rees said she believes Saraya was pressured into a false confession. She said prosecutors claimed she and her husband were the victims in the incident, so they were unable to speak on Saraya’s defense.
“She’s already been through so much,” said Rees. "I just don’t understand why they thought this was the best option for her.”
Rees also told KEZI 9 News that Saraya struggled as a multi-racial person in Coos County. Now, she said she believes that mental health and race both played a part in the sentence.
“She got called the N-word all the time -- told how ugly she was and her face is ugly,” said Rees.
Frasier said the sentence was based on the facts and Saraya was treated like anybody else.
“If she hadn’t been interrupted, she would’ve burned the house down and we would’ve had three dead people,” said Frasier.
However, Rees said she’s not going down without a fight.
Right now, she is using social media to share her daughter's story. The Facebook page Justice4Saraya already has more than 1,000 likes.
“I know my daughter more than anybody,” said Rees. “I know that’s not what she was trying to do.”