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Megan Meier

Megan Meier
Born Megan Taylor Meier
November 6, 1992(1992-11-06)
O'Fallon, Missouri
Died October 17, 2006 (aged 13)
Dardenne Prairie, Missouri
Cause of death Suicide by hanging
Nationality American
Ethnicity White
Occupation Student
Parents Christina Laherty
Ronald Meier
Website
Memorial Site

Megan Taylor Meier (November 6, 1992 – October 17, 2006) was a North American teenager from Dardenne Prairie, Missouri who committed suicide by hanging three weeks before her 14th birthday. A year later, Meier's parents prompted an investigation into the matter and her suicide was attributed to cyber-bullying through the social networking website MySpace. The mother of a friend of Meier, Lori Drew was later indicted on the matter in 2008, but in 2009, Drew was acquitted.

Contents

Background

Megan Meier was born in O'Fallon, Missouri to Christina Laherty and Ronald Meier. She had lived in nearby Dardenne Prairie her childhood, with her parents and sister Allison.

From the third grade Megan had been under the care of a psychiatrist. She had been prescribed citalopram, methylphenidate and ziprasidone.[1] She had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and depression and considered herself overweight.[2] She was described by her parents as a "bubbly, goofy" girl who enjoyed spending time with her friends and family.[3]

Meier attended Fort Zumwalt public schools, including Ostmann Elementary School and Fort Zumwalt West Middle School[4] in nearby O'Fallon, Missouri. For eighth grade, her parents enrolled her at Immaculate Conception Catholic School[4] in Dardenne Prairie, with a uniform and policy against makeup and jewelry that the Meiers thought would help Megan fit in.[5] At the time of the incident, the Drew and Meier households were neighbors, living four doors apart.[6]

The account through which the bullying of Meier took place purportedly belonged to a 16-year-old male named "Josh Evans." However, Lori Drew, the mother of a former friend of Meier, later admitted creating the MySpace account with her daughter and Ashley Grills, Lori Drew's 18-year-old employee. Several people contributed to running the faked account, including Drew. Witnesses testified that the women intended to use Meier’s e-mails with "Josh" to get information about her and later humiliate her, in retribution for her allegedly spreading gossip about Drew's daughter.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13]

Death

Soon after opening an account on MySpace, Meier received a message from Lori Drew, using a fabricated account attributed to a 16-year-old boy, Josh Evans. Meier and Josh became online friends, but never met in person or spoke. Meier thought he was attractive. Meier began to exchange messages with this person, and was described by family as having had her "spirits lifted". This person claimed to have just moved to the nearby city of O'Fallon, was home schooled, and did not yet have a phone number.

On October 15, 2006, the tone of the messages changed, with Drew saying (via the account) "I don't know if I want to be friends with you anymore because I've heard that you are not very nice to your friends". Similar messages were sent; some of Megan's messages were shared with others; and bulletins were posted about her. After telling her mother, Tina Meier, about the increasing number of hurtful messages, the two got into an argument over the vulgar language Meier used in response to the messages and the fact that she did not log off when her mother told her to. After the argument, Megan said to her mother "You're supposed to be my mom, you're supposed to be on my side." She then ran upstairs to her room. According to Meier's father Ronald Meier, and a neighbor who had discussed the hoax with Drew, the last message sent by the Evans account read: "Everybody in O'Fallon knows how you are. You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you." Meier responded with a message reading “You’re the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over.” The last few correspondences were made via AOL Messenger instead of Myspace. She was found twenty minutes later in her bedroom closet; Megan had hanged herself. Despite attempts to revive her, she was pronounced dead the following day.[14][15] [16]

Investigation

Local

Six weeks after her death, Megan Meier's parents were informed that the mother of one of their daughter's friends—with whom Meier had a falling out—had created the "Josh Evans" account. The parent, Lori Drew, who created the fake account, admitted that she and her daughter had the password to the account, and characterized the hoax to a reporter as a "joke." Initially, Drew denied knowing about the offensive messages that were sent to Meier. She told the police that the account was aimed at "gaining Megan's confidence and finding out what Megan felt about her daughter and other people". The neighborhood mother who had informed the Meiers that Drew had been responsible for the hoax account said "Lori laughed about it," and that Drew said she had intended to "mess with Megan." While Drew's name was excluded from most early news stories, CNN disclosed her name through the inclusion of the police report in its broadcast of the story which many weblogs then featured.[17][2][17]

There was a gap of over a year from the time of the suicide (17 October, 2006) until the time that the controversy behind it was finally reported in the media (11 November, 2007). This was due to a request by the FBI, who had been investigating the hoax, and had asked the Meier family not to say anything publicly in order to keep the Drews from finding out about their investigation. Shortly after the first anniversary of Meier's death, Meier's aunt, Vicki Dunn, saw an article written by Steve Pokin of the Suburban Journals about internet harassment, and contacted Mr. Pokin to share Meier's story with him. Once the story broke, it quickly spread to national and international news outlets.[4][18][2][19]

At a press conference on Monday, December 3, 2007, Jack Banas, the prosecuting attorney of St. Charles County, said that Lori Drew's 18-year-old temporary employee, Ashley Grills, wrote most of the messages addressed to Meier and that she wrote the final "Josh Evans" message addressed to Meier. Grills said she wrote the final message to end the MySpace hoax and get Megan Meier to stop communicating with "Josh Evans."[9] Banas stated that he did not interview Grills because, at the time, she was under psychiatric treatment for the involvement in the Meier case, and did not plan to interview her at a later date. The Meiers criticized the prosecutor's statements, saying that Banas did not interview any party other than the Drews and that Banas is solely relying on the testimony of the Drews. Banas stated that the original FBI investigation into the matter, at which time Grills was interviewed, established the employee's role in the event. The Meiers have said they do not hold Grills responsible for Megan's death.[20] Banas said the Drews' daughter, now 15, is attending a different school and is not currently living in Dardenne Prairie. He said Lori Drew was fearful of telling him where her daughter lives. According to Lori Drew's attorney, she has had to close her advertising business in the wake of the controversy and the Drews will probably be unable to continue to live in the neighborhood. Neighbors shunned the Drews following the incident.[21]

Internet webloggers posted photographs, telephone numbers, e-mail details, and addresses of the Drews and the employee on various websites.[21] Businesses that advertised in Drew's coupon book business were also shunned.[22] Sarah Wells, a weblogger who revealed the given and family names of Lori Drew, stated that "I don't regret naming Drew," in an e-mail message. Stephen Hutcheon, a writer for the Australian newspaper The Age, compared the Dardenne Prairie street which has the Drew residence to Wisteria Lane in Desperate Housewives, citing neighbors feuding and increased police presence.[22] After reviewing the case, county prosecutors decided not to file any criminal charges in relation to the hoax.

Federal

Drew was indicted and convicted in 2008 on the matter, but then acquitted in 2009.

Reactions

Megan Meier's story was first reported in the St. Charles Journal, and reader comments focused on unnamed adults implicated in the hoax — who were later revealed to be Lori and Curt Drew.[2] Later, the focus was on the St. Louis Suburban Journals's decision not to print the name of the Drews. The reporter stated in an interview that the names were withheld out of concern for the minor child of the hoaxer.[18] However, the identity of the chief perpetrator, Lori Drew, was quickly revealed by webloggers, who reported finding the names of the parents within minutes from the information given in the article,[23][24] followed by the media eventually revealing Lori Drew's name and photograph.[14] Banas said he was aware of the national outrage against the Drews, which originated on the Internet in response to the Steve Pokin article in the O'Fallon Journal.[15] The Drews have had their home and work addresses, phone and cell numbers, and aerial photos of their home posted on the Internet. The Drews' property had also been vandalized. Banas said some of these actions against the Drews could constitute Internet stalking.[15] "Because we can’t prosecute somebody it certainly does not justify violating the law," Banas said. "We live in this country by the rule of the law." He described Lori Drew as "upset, cautious and guarded" when he interviewed her. Banas said that Mrs. Drew felt "terrible" about Meier’s death.[15] A vigil was held for Megan Meier on November 24, 2007. The crowd gathered in a near-by parking lot and walked past the homes of the Meiers and the Drews. A small piece of ground adjacent to the Drews' house was the scene of remembrances by friends of the Meiers.[25]

The case has caused several jurisdictions to enact or to consider legislation prohibiting harassment over the Internet. The Board of Aldermen for the City of Dardenne Prairie, passed an ordinance on November 22, 2007, in response to the incident.[26] The ordinance prohibits any harassment that utilizes an electronic medium, including the Internet, text messaging services, pagers, and similar devices. Violations of the ordinance are treated as misdemeanors, with fines of up to $500 and up to 90 days imprisonment. The city of Florissant, Missouri also passed a "Cyber Harassment" law, with other municipalities, counties, and states considering following suit. The state of Missouri is to revise its harassment laws in response to the case,[27] updating them to cover harassment through computers and mobile phone messaging, and creating a new crime to cover adults 21 and over harassing children under the age of eighteen. The new legislation went into effect on August 28, 2008. The bill was a reaction to Missouri police's inability to comprehensively prosecute Lori Drew for cyberbullying and harassment by computer. [28] According to the St. Louis Daily Record, the "new language expands the definition of the crime of “harassment” to include knowingly intimidating or causing emotional distress anonymously, either by phone or electronically, or causing distress to a child." It also "increases the penalty for harassment from a misdemeanor to a felony, carrying up to four years in prison, if it’s committed by an adult against someone 17 or younger, or if the criminal has previously been convicted of harassment." This is one of the first comprehensive cyberbullying and cyberstalking state laws that protects children and adults from harassment on social networking sites. The bill is a reaction to Lori Drew's case dismissal[29] and Governor Matt Blunt, the politician who signed the law into effect states, "[Missouri] needs tough laws to protect its children." A bill was introduced in the 111th Congress on April 2, 2009 as H.R. 1966. Both houses of the Missouri State Legislature voted unanimously on May 15, 2008 to criminalize usage of the internet to harass someone, the existing statute was expanded to prohibit abusive "communication by any means..." and is known as "Megan's Law." (not to be confused with California's Megan's Law). On 22 May 2008, Congresswoman Linda T. Sanchez introduced H.R. 6123 as the "Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act" to "amend title 18, United States Code, with respect to cyberbullying." [30][31][32][33]

See also

References

  1. ^ The New Yorker:Annal of Crime: The Friend Game January 21, 2008
  2. ^ a b c d Pokin, Steve (2007-11-11). " 'MySpace' hoax ends with suicide of Dardenne Prairie teen". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. http://suburbanjournals.stltoday.com/articles/2007/11/11/news/sj2tn20071110-1111stc_pokin_1.ii1.txt. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  3. ^ "Parents say fake online 'friend' led to girl's suicide". CNN. 2007-11-17. http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/11/17/internet.suicide.ap/index.html. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  4. ^ a b c "A Hoax Turned Fatal Draws Anger but No Charges, The New York Times
  5. ^ 'They were ganging up on her, calling her fat and a wh***': the cyber-bullying that got out of hand | Mail Online
  6. ^ Frail egos caught in killer net. The Sydney Morning Herald 30 November 2007.
  7. ^ "Verdict in MySpace Suicide Case". New York Times. November 26, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/27/us/27myspace.html?_r=1&hp. Retrieved 2008-11-26. "The purpose of the hoax, several witnesses testified, was to use Megan’s e-mail exchanges with "Josh" to humiliate Megan in retribution for her unkind acts toward Sarah." 
  8. ^ "Cyberbullying case goes to jury". United Press International. http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2008/11/25/Cyberbullying_case_goes_to_jury/UPI-57271227624011/. Retrieved 2008-11-26. "They say Drew created a false 16-year-old male persona in an attempt to woo Meier and extract information from her to determine if she had been spreading gossip about her daughter." 
  9. ^ a b "Exclusive: Teen Talks About Her Role in Web Hoax That Led to Suicide." ABC News.
  10. ^ Foundation home page MeganTaylorMeier.com
  11. ^ "Cyber vigilantes on attack," CNN, December 4, 2007
  12. ^ Key events in the Megan Meier case." Associated Press at USA Today. May 15, 2008. Retrieved on August 14, 2009.
  13. ^ "Prosecution: Lori Drew Schemed to Humiliate Teen Girl"
  14. ^ a b "Parents Want Jail Time for MySpace Hoax Mom". ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=3929774. Retrieved 2007-12-02. 
  15. ^ a b c d "UPDATE: No charges to be filed over Meier suicide. Suburban Journals. 3 December 2007.
  16. ^ Parents: Cyber Bullying Led to Teen's Suicide: Megan Meier's Parents Now Want Measures to Protect Children Online 2007
  17. ^ a b "How Lori Drew became America's most reviled mother". The Age. 2007-12-01. http://www.theage.com.au/news/web/americas-most-reviled-mother/2007/11/30/1196394672124.html. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  18. ^ a b "Who Deserves Anonymity?". Gelf magazine. 2007-11-16. http://www.gelfmagazine.com/gelflog/archives/who_deserves_anonymity.php. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  19. ^ "Something more disturbing than litter came unwanted into this house". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 2007-10-21. http://stcharlesjournal.stltoday.com/stevepokin/2007/10/something-more-disturbing-than-litter.html. Retrieved 2007-12-07. 
  20. ^ Collins, Lauren. Friend Game, The New Yorker 21 January 2008.
  21. ^ a b "Neighbors shun MySpace hoax family. CNN. 7 December 2007.
  22. ^ a b Hutcheon, Stephen. Net vigilantes target MySpace mum. The Age
  23. ^ Ramadge, Andrew (2007-11-19). "Woman linked to teen girl's suicide outed". news.com.au. http://www.news.com.au/technology/story/0,25642,22783456-5014108,00.html?from=mostpop. Retrieved 2007-11-19. 
  24. ^ Zetter, Kim (2007-11-21). "Cyberbullying Suicide Stokes the Internet Fury Machine". Wired News. http://www.wired.com/politics/onlinerights/news/2007/11/vigilante_justice. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  25. ^ "Candlelight vigil held in honor of Megan Meier". sccworlds.com. http://www.sccworlds.com/worlds/index_files/dardenne_prairie/meierwalk.htm. 
  26. ^ Goldstein, Bonnie (2007-11-29). "The Sock Puppet Who Loved Me". Slate. http://www.slate.com/id/2178820/. Retrieved 2007-12-02. 
  27. ^ Cathcart, Rebecca. "MySpace Is Said to Draw Subpoena in Hoax Case". The New York Times. 10 January 2008.
  28. ^ Missouri House of Representatives: House and Senate Joint Bill Tracking Web form (enter code SB818 to view the bill)
  29. ^ Verdict in MySpace Suicide Case November 26, 2008
  30. ^ 110th Congress, 2nd Session H. R. 6123 May 22, 2008
  31. ^ Mattathias Schwartz (2008-08-03). "Malwebolence: The World of Web Trolling". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/magazine/03trolls-t.html. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  32. ^ Steve Pokin (2007-11-15). "Dardenne Prairie officials plan to make cyberspace harassment a crime". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. http://suburbanjournals.stltoday.com/articles/2007/11/15/news/doc473c629800bb7940817680.txt. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  33. ^ Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 565, Offenses Against the Person, Section 565.225 August 28, 2009

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