DEVASTATED parents of two 11-year-old best friends believe they killed themselves after being bullied for coming out.
Madissen Foxx Paulsen shot herself dead with her dad’s gun in in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, in December 2017.
Her friend Sophia Leaf-Abrahamson was found hanged two months later at her family home.
Their parents Angela Leaf, 33, and Shane Paulsen, 46, told Mail Online the girls had tried to discuss their sexuality.
Angela said: “Sophia asked if she could talk to me. I told her she could talk to me about anything, to never be scared to talk to me.
“She blurted out, ‘I think I like girls’. I told her it was okay.
“If she and Madissen had those feelings, I would never have any issues with it. It’s part of life and I love my daughter one way or the other, no matter what.”
Shane said: “Madissen, Sophia and I were in a Burger King and my daughter points at Sophia and says, ‘This is my girlfriend and there’s nothing you can do about it dad.'”
He added: “My daughter questioned her identity but it didn’t matter to me if she was in love with girls or in love with boys.”
On December 1, 2017, Shane spoke to Madissen as she sat on his lap, then he cracked a beer and fell asleep.
She took the keys to his safe and he woke up to the sound of a gunshot.
He added: “I knelt down and grabbed Madissen’s arm. She was still warm but she was dead.
“I can’t get rid of the smell of warm blood in there.”
Angela broke the news to Sophia that Madissen had died.
The mum said: “She took Madissen’s death hard. She would cry for days.
“She wouldn’t go to school because she was afraid what people would say and didn’t want to realize that Madissen wasn’t there anymore.”
Weeks later, she was at work as a 911 call agent when she overheard her brother Steve tell an operator he had found Sophia hanged in the basement.
Angela said the girls were inseparable, and even tried to dress the same.
She said: “They followed each other. When Sophia cut her hair, shortly after that Madissen did too.”
Now the parents are trawling through the girls’ computers looking for clues.
Shane said: “I don’t know what other people are teaching their kids. I don’t know the teachers well enough to know where they stand on issues.”
He added: “It isn’t the kind of publicity a school wants – two kids in the same grade, two months apart commit suicide and bullying could have been a huge issue.
“There’s a real problem in that school and I can say it boldly, because I know that bullying goes on and people look the other way.”
Scott Privratsky, Devil’s Lake Public Schools superintendent, told the website: “The school district will not comment.”