THE BRONX - Neighbors are coming to the defense of a 14-year-old accused of stabbing one of his classmates to death, claiming he was a target for bullies.

Police say Noel Estevez stabbed 14-year-old Timothy Crump multiple times in the stomach outside I.S. 117, the Joseph H. Wade Middle School, following a fight at around 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Neighbors say the two were once close friends, but their relationship deteriorated after a cellphone went missing.

Marisol Perez, a longtime friend of the family, says Estevez confided in her that he was repeatedly teased about his mother, who is battling a drug problem. Perez says the teen was so depressed about the constant bullying at school that he tried to hang himself in his bedroom closet three weeks ago.

Neighbors say Estevez's father tried to get a safety transfer for his son at one point.