Thirteen year-old Megan Meier did not know that her MySpace friend "Josh Evans" was a sock puppet (i.e., artificial Internet persona) created to manipulate her. Lori Drew, an adult living down the street from Megan in Dardenne Prairie, Mo., devised the prank to exact revenge after Megan ended her friendship with Drew's daughter. It was not difficult for Drew to create Josh, an imaginary 16-year-old boy, or to win the trust of the socially insecure middle-school student a few houses away. Pretending to be a cute, new-in-town high-schooler, Drew gave Megan weeks of attention and emotional companionship, then abruptly turned on her and started posting hateful messages. After receiving one particularly hostile post, the despondent Megan hanged herself in her bedroom closet.
Four doors away, Drew deleted Josh Evans from My Space, attended Megan's funeral and kept quiet about the hoax. Six weeks later, a confidante of the woman's daughter who'd been pulled into the ruse confessed the scheme to Megan's parents. The shocked parents also learned that neither Drew's cruel harassment of Megan nor her online impersonation had been illegal.
Remarkably, it was Lori Drew, wishing to "inform law enforcement of a neighborhood dispute," who called police to help her "confront" the Meier parents "in reference to their daughter's suicide." In the incident report, officers recorded that Lori Drew wanted to "just tell them" her side of the story. When she and her husband tried (by "banging on the door") to communicate with Megan's heartbroken parents, "Mr. Meier told them to leave." The hoped-for rapprochement never came about, and by last April, Drew had called the police several more times, once after a brick was thrown through her kitchen window.
Earlier this month, a year after Megan's death, her mother, Tina Meier, finally shared her outrage with the local St. Charles County Journal. The paper did not use Lori Drew's name in the account, but angry readers quickly identified the neighbor. Her personal information is now well-documented on the Internet, where she has been universally pilloried. Ironically, any effort to prevent future harassment of girls like Megan could also protect Drew. Last week Dardenne Prairie aldermen passed a resolution (below and on the following two pages) making cyberstalking a misdemeanor within the city limits.
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