Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Hoax Turned Fatal Draws Anger but No Charges


By CHRISTOPHER MAAG
Published: November 28, 2007


DARDENNE PRAIRIE, Mo., Nov. 21 — Megan Meier died believing that somewhere in this world lived a boy named Josh Evans who hated her. He was 16, owned a pet snake, and she thought he was the cutest boyfriend she ever had.


Peter Newcomb for The New York Times
Tina and Ron Meier with a photo of their daughter Megan, 13,
who killed herself last year after an online romance ended.


Josh contacted Megan through her page on MySpace.com, the social networking Web site, said Megan’s mother, Tina Meier. They flirted for weeks, but only online — Josh said his family had no phone. On Oct. 15, 2006, Josh suddenly turned mean. He called Megan names, and later they traded insults for an hour.


The next day, in his final message, said Megan’s father, Ron Meier, Josh wrote, “The world would be a better place without you.”


Sobbing, Megan ran into her bedroom closet. Her mother found her there, hanging from a belt. She was 13.


Six weeks after Megan’s death, her parents learned that Josh Evans never existed. He was an online character created by Lori Drew, then 47, who lived four houses down the street in this rapidly growing community 35 miles northwest of St. Louis.


That an adult would plot such a cruel hoax against a 13-year-old girl has drawn outraged phone calls, e-mail messages and blog posts from around the world. Many people expressed anger because St. Charles County officials did not charge Ms. Drew with a crime.


But a St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department spokesman, Lt. Craig McGuire, said that what Ms. Drew did “might’ve been rude, it might’ve been immature, but it wasn’t illegal.”


In response to the events, the local Board of Aldermen on Wednesday unanimously passed a measure making Internet harassment a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail.


“Give me a break; that’s nothing,” Mayor Pam Fogarty said of the penalties. “But it’s the most we could do. People are saying to me, ‘Let’s go burn down their house.’”


St. Charles County’s prosecuting attorney, Jack Banas, said he was reviewing the case to determine whether anyone could be charged with a crime. State Representative Doug Funderburk, whose district includes Dardenne Prairie, said he was looking into the feasibility of introducing legislation to tighten restrictions against online harassment and fraud.


In seventh grade, Megan Meier had tried desperately to join the popular crowd at Fort Zumwalt West Middle School, only to be teased about her weight, her mother said. At the beginning of eighth grade last year, she transferred to Immaculate Conception, a nearby Catholic school. Within three months, Ms. Meier said, her daughter had a new group of friends, lost 20 pounds and joined the volleyball team.


At one time, Lori Drew’s daughter and Megan had been “joined at the hip,” said Megan’s great-aunt Vicki Dunn. But the two drifted apart, and when Megan changed schools she told the other girl that she no longer wanted to be friends, Ms. Meier said.


In a report filed with the Sheriff’s Department, Lori Drew said she created the MySpace profile of “Josh Evans” to win Megan’s trust and learn how Megan felt about her daughter. Reached at home, Lori’s husband, Curt Drew, said only that the family had no comment.


Because Ms. Drew had taken Megan on family vacations, she knew the girl had been prescribed antidepression medication, Ms. Meier said. She also knew that Megan had a MySpace page.
Ms. Drew had told a girl across the street about the hoax, said the girl’s mother, who requested anonymity to protect her daughter, a minor.


“Lori laughed about it,” the mother said, adding that Ms. Drew and Ms. Drew’s daughter “said they were going to mess with Megan.”


After a month of innocent flirtation between Megan and Josh, Ms. Meier said, Megan suddenly received a message from him saying, “I don’t like the way you treat your friends, and I don’t know if I want to be friends with you.”


They argued online. The next day other youngsters who had linked to Josh’s MySpace profile joined the increasingly bitter exchange and began sending profanity-laden messages to Megan, who retreated to her bedroom. No more than 15 minutes had passed, Ms. Meier recalled, when she suddenly felt something was terribly wrong. She rushed to the bedroom and found her daughter’s body hanging in the closet.


As paramedics worked to revive Megan, the neighbor who insisted on anonymity said, Lori Drew called the neighbor’s daughter and told her to “keep her mouth shut” about the MySpace page.


Six weeks later, at a meeting with the Meiers, mediated by grief counselors, the neighbor told them that “Josh” was a hoax. The Drews were not present.


“I just sat there in shock,” Mr. Meier said.


Shortly before Megan’s death, the Meiers had agreed to store a foosball table the Drews had bought as a Christmas surprise for their children. When the Meiers learned about the MySpace hoax, they attacked the table with a sledgehammer and an ax, Ms. Meier said, and threw the pieces onto the Drews’ driveway.


“I felt like such a fool,” Mr. Meier said. “I’m supposed to protect my family, and here I allowed these people to inject themselves into our lives.”


The police learned about the hoax when Ms. Drew filed a complaint about the damage to the foosball table. In the report, she stated that she felt the hoax “contributed to Megan’s suicide, but she did not feel ‘as guilty’ because at the funeral she found out Megan had tried to commit suicide before.”


Megan had mentioned suicide several times, her mother said, but had never attempted it, and no one who knew her, including her doctors, felt she was suicidal.


On the advice of F.B.I. agents who did not want the Drews to learn of their investigation of the hoax, Ms. Meier said, her family said nothing publicly about the case for a year. Today, the Meier and the Drew families continue to live four houses from one another on a winding suburban street.


“There are no words to explain my rage,” Ms. Meier said. “These people were supposed to be our friends.”



Is justice being served here? What recourse does the family have? What lesson is to be learned from this incident?

Extra credit if you also post here.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

After reading this article, I was so surprised how someone can actually cause a death thru Myspace. It's pretty outrageous how Lori would say those things to Megan. It's obviously going to hurt the girl's feelings, but I never knew that it would hurt her to the point of death. The family has no choice, but to turn to the police, the FBI, or the government for help. This is why you should never ever do online dating or meet people online that you don't know. Only be friends with people you've actually seen and talk to. I don't think justice is being served because nobody think it's a big deal.
-TLau

Anonymous said...

Courteney Richardson

In this case , I fear justice is not being fair AT ALL!!! For the simple fact of a teenage lost her life over pure STUPIDNESS. I also feel that the 47 year old mother should be charged with manslaughter and also should be charged with a fine. As an adult and a mother she should actually knowmuch better then to sit there and play a hoax on a 13 year old who suffers from depression. Also why I feel the mother should be charged because she knew that the 13 year old suffered from depression and didn't have it easy coming up being a unpopular teenager. She should've stayed out of preteens business also she was just as low for scooping to the level of a 13 year old to play a practical joke that lead to someone's death.

Anonymous said...

Courteney Richardson

also , another this is a lesson that should be taught to all students who feel that being popular is all about going to school and also that some comments can have an effect on others which you feel that it don't. WATCH WHAT YOU SAY...

manpreet kaur said...

Ms.Drew should have been punishmed more than just a fine of $500 and 90 days of jail. Ms. Drew did fraud. I think she was given less punishment because she was a women.
In one way, Megan is held responsible for deciding to talk to a stranger on her own, she used her freedom of speech, and writing(Amendent).
The lesson to be learned from this incident, is that people should obey when their parents say, "don't talk to strangers." Talking to strangers can into
a crisis.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what manpreet said about how Ms.Drew should have been punished more than just a fine of $500 and 90 days of jail. But it really isn't ms. Drew's fault because Megan should have at least met the person for once just to be sure if the person existed or not. And the lesson that should be learn from this is that people should never try to joke around with other people like how Ms.drew did you take away some ones life like that and also you should meet the person in personal before you start a serious relationship to make sure if that person existed.

-Khizer Hayat

Anonymous said...

Kristal Atchison...

I feel what the neighbors did was not right at all. Like Courteney Richardson said justice is not being fair that lady should be charged with manslaughter because she knew what that child was going thru and that child had enough problems on her hand she jus made it worser by killing the child yes i think it was her flaut because she just mad eit worser and put more hurt on the child because the child actually thought she had a boyfriend when it turns out she really didnt have one. She played a pank that wasnt funnie at all.Giving her a fine up to 500hundred dallors and 90days in jail is nothing at all. Her parents should of payed attention more carefully on who she was talking to. from reading on about this storie How could someone who killed her child n made a fake relationship with her still today live down the block from that person? it really doesnt make no sense smh

Anonymous said...

This article is really shocking because i find it weird how people always blame myspace... i mean what happened to facebook, friendster, xanga, and the other social networking websites?
Lori is a horrible woman to do such a thing to Megan. Yes i understand Megan took things way to seriously but it is a 13 year old girl. Megan killed herself because of Lori, Justice isn't being served. Lori should be punished and be charged with manslaughter. The family has nothing to do other then go to the FBI and let them handle everything. This article i think teaches us all a lesson, we should never meet strangers online and if we are going to have these online networking websites then we should not talk to people we don't know. It is just common sense to do that. This world is a crazy world, nothing is as it seems so we don't know if the person who we talk to is the person they say they are.

-Anta R.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of the students. It is just shocking how words can affect someone so much that it can cause death, that also through myspace. I think it very sad what Lori had said to megan, that the "world would be a better place without you". This hurt megan, she took it seriously and she commit suicide. I think Lori should be charged with manslaughter because she caused megan's death. Lori should be ashamed for talkin to a 13 year old girl in the first place.
-Simran Kaur

Octavia Ramos said...

After reading this article. It made me look at how the internet can kill a person emoyionally without physical altercations. Even though she didnt have to kill herself she could have not listened to what the mother and her child were saying by just deleting her myspace but it was a hoax and it was a made up person. That also shows how not safe the internet can be that someone who can pose as someone else and be a danger to you because you feel you can trust that person. Im not justifying that what the daughter and mother did was right because it was wrong knowing the circumstances of megan being on antidepressants and having made several suicide attempts on their part that was wrong because they knew she was emotionally damaged. I do think they should get some type of punishment to see that justice is served because what they did was wrong and not mature on the adult part it shows their lack of parenting skills when it comes to their children because by doing what they did their saying its okay.

Casey B said...

I feel that this lady should know better. She is a grown adult and if she really did have knowledge of that young girls mental history then she should have somekind of jail time. It is not fair for the parents to sit four houses away from the people who drove their daughter to kill herself. They should have some type of punishment. I agree with khizar and Manpreet that her punishment should be more than the fine and the 9o days in jail which she probably wont even stay for a week.

Durkhanai A. said...

Ms. Drew did something so wrong to Megan just to find out if she was talking about her daughter in any way. After reading the article and reading the posts I agree with everyone that she deserves more of a punishment then just 500 dollars and 90 days in jail. Tina Meiers daugther is worth more than 500 dollars and 90 days in jail. The things said to Megan by a grow adult is a shame. I watched in 20/20 how they interviewed the neighbor, and the husband was saying the she should be accused for more then she is getting. How does she still live 4 houses away after doing such a crime? Didnt she feel guity at all? Doesnt she feel that its time to move away from that family?

Alyssa Cumberbatch said...

I do not believe that justice is being served. Ms. Drew, may not have directly murdered Megan, but she harmed her mentally, well aware of her psycological state of mind. Not only did she take advantage of a minor, but she as a "responsiable" adult should have thought ahead about the effects of her actions. In class we also spoke about the men who solicite children online. It seems as though Ms. Drew didn't do anything much different from them, and should also be charged with sexual assult to a minor, because she was having innapropriate conversation with Megan.
This article is truely heartbreaking, and to know that people can commit such a morally wrong crime, and get away with just a fine is devistating. Ms. Drew deffinitely deserves more than just a slap on the wrist.

-Alyssa Cumberbatch

Mr Tesler said...

Thank you to the QHST seniors who posted to our blog. Hopefully, our schools can collaborate on some future projects.

Samantha Ross said...

I do agree with Manpreet when she said how Megan is held responsible for talking to a stranger. I don't think it is completely her fault but she does have something to do with it. But Ms. Drew does deserve some other type of punishment. She was the adult and she does know there were consequences to what she was doing. I also agree with Courteney and Kristal when they said Ms. Drew should have been charged with manslaughter. She knew Megan was going through problems. If she really needed to know the reason for her daughter and Megan not being friends, she should have asked instead of hurting Megan. I don't think justice is being served and I don't think anything will be done now. The reason for me thinking the way I am is that four years has passed and nothing has happened. The only good thing that would happen is the world will become more aware of all the dangers not only Myspace but the internet can cause.

tobin v. said...

I feel that there is no justice to be served. The acts that she did and say to the girl was totally wrong. But Ms. Drew never killed Megan, Megan committed suicide. And on top of that she tried to kill herself even before she meet so called “Josh”. The recourse that the family has is that they can sue the Drews for the mother’s acts and what she said. I think that the lesson learned from this article is that always, always be careful who you talk to online.

Anonymous said...

J Dilan

I agree with Tobin when he says that there should be no justice to be served. I think that that it is all on Megan and her parents because as a parent you should guide you child away from things when these kinds of things happen. This kind of thing happens a lot on online and at that age your parent should step in when the situation gets rocky. It was bad what ms drew and her daughter did to Megan but taking your life over a boy that you haven’t even met is crazy. I don’t think that anything should happen to Ms Drew because she didn’t do anything to her physically. I think kids should appreciate life more instead of doing this kind of stuff.

JohnZ said...

Well, in regards to what Manpreet said, she was not punished with the jail time and fine. That was come up with after this all happened, so she can't be punished under that law. Though if you think about it, she could be charged as a stalker or something along the lines of a child molester. We see it on dateline all the time, they bust old guys for going over to a little kid's house to have sex with them or something. This is honestly no different, a relationship was carried out, between a minor and an adult. She could easily be brought up on charges for that, also she could be brought up on charges of causing her to commit suicide. I can't quite remember what the charge is exactly called, but there is such a thing I know that much. I wonder what the FBI's investigation will yeild and what charges will be brought up. But to what Tobin said, isn't there something to be said about contributing to her death. She may not have given her to rope, but didn't she give her a reason to use it?

Anonymous said...

Although this is a great tradgedy i do not belive the mother is guilty of maslaughter. what she did was immature and moraly wrong. She is guilty of many things such as harrassment and can even be considered a sexual predator. This woman must live with the fact that a little girl killed herself because she fealt the need to mess with her head. Jail time and fines will not justify what this woman has done. Can anything?


Matthew Morrison

Courtney Wilson said...

I can't believe someone would stoop so low. How could you build up someone's dreams then deliberately crush them. Ms. Drew should be held somewhat responsible although she didn't physically kill Megan. She pushed a suicidal girl off the, so-called "egde". You can't test with the emotions of someone on an anti-depressant. I agree with those who have said that justice was not served. The fact that MySpace was the site that made this posssible makes it even more despicable.

Anonymous said...

I believe that they should have never done this even if it was there child that did it and they knew about it they should have told her to stop after she found out that the girl was not talking about her she should have stopped and not have continued acting like the boy. She also started to say bad things about the girl that was very immature on there part. They defiantly went to far.
-Kristen Fitz

Anonymous said...

I AGREE WITH EVERY ONE BUT I THINK THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN CHARGED FOR SOMETHING. THAT WAS VERY WORNG AND IMMTURE OF THEM. IT MAKES THEM LOOK LIKE THEY HAVE LOW SELFASTEAM BECAUSE THEY PICKED ON A POOR GIRL TO MAKE THEMSELFS FEEL BETTER.



KEMI AJIROTUTU

Anonymous said...

im amazed how someone you never meet in person, Know anything but what he tells you, and not even hear the voice of this person can hold so much weight in what you think of yourself and drive you to killing yourself. I understand the charges of harasement because it was coming from a 46 yr old man but I think the true cause of this situation is the mother and father who let there 13 yr old even go on myspace, at this age there child is very gullable to anything goin on, exspecially with all the child abduction goin on how wouldn't you moniter what your child is doin and who the been religiously talking too for weeks. parent need too make more time for there children and understand everything going on in there life

Jamaal Adams