A tragic case has emerged in St. Charlies MO, where there has been a horrendous wrong committed by adults against a child but no legal action. A chld Megan Meier is dead but neither criminal nor civil action will be taken.
According to the St. Charles Journal, the parents of a girl were mad at 13-year-old Megan Meier, who had broken up her friendship with their daughter. The parents (whose names have been withheld by the local newspaper) created a fake personality on MySpace in the form of a handsome 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans. They nurtured the relationship so that Megan clearly developed a crush.
Her mother, Tina Meier recalls her daughter screaming “”Mom! Mom! Mom! Look at him! . . . look at him! He’s hot! Please, please, can I add him?” Her mother relented and agreed to add him to her MySpace list.
These neighbors developed an extensive false identity for Josh.
Megan became obsessed with Josh and communicated with him regularly.
Then on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006, she received terrible message from Josh that said that “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.”
The newspaper reports:
Frantic, Megan shot back: “What are you talking about?”
Tina Meier was wary of the cyber-world of MySpace and its 70 million users. People are not always who they say they are.
Tina knew firsthand. Megan and the girl down the block, the former friend, once had created a fake MySpace account, using the photo of a good-looking girl as a way to talk to boys online, Tina says. When Tina found out, she ended Megan’s access.
MySpace has rules. A lot of them. There are nine pages of terms and conditions. The long list of prohibited content includes sexual material. And users must be at least 14.
“Are you joking?” Tina asks. “There are fifth-grade girls who have MySpace accounts.”
As for sexual content, Tina says, most parents have no clue how much there is. And Megan wasn’t 14 when she opened her account. To join, you are asked your age but there is no check. The accounts are free.
As Megan’s 14th birthday approached, she pleaded for her mom to give her another chance on MySpace, and Tina relented.
She told Megan she would be all over this account, monitoring it. Megan didn’t always make good choices because of her ADD, Tina says. And this time, Megan’s page would be set to private and only Mom and Dad would have the password.
Monday, Oct. 16, 2006, was a rainy, bleak day. At school, Megan had handed out invitations to her upcoming birthday party and when she got home she asked her mother to log on to MySpace to see if Josh had responded.
Why did he suddenly think she was mean? Who had he been talking to?
Tina signed on. But she was in a hurry. She had to take her younger daughter, Allison, to the orthodontist.
Before Tina could get out the door it was clear Megan was upset. Josh still was sending troubling messages. And he apparently had shared some of Megan’s messages with others.
Tina recalled telling Megan to sign off.
“I will Mom,” Megan said. “Let me finish up.”
Tina was pressed for time. She had to go. But once at the orthodontist’s office she called Megan: Did you sign off?
“No, Mom. They are all being so mean to me.”
“You are not listening to me, Megan! Sign off, now!”
Fifteen minutes later, Megan called her mother. By now Megan was in tears.
“They are posting bulletins about me.” A bulletin is like a survey. “Megan Meier is a slut. Megan Meier is fat.”
Megan was sobbing hysterically. Tina was furious that she had not signed off.
Once Tina returned home she rushed into the basement where the computer was. Tina was shocked at the vulgar language her daughter was firing back at people.
“I am so aggravated at you for doing this!” she told Megan.
Megan ran from the computer and left, but not without first telling Tina, “You’re supposed to be my mom! You’re supposed to be on my side!”
On the stairway leading to her second-story bedroom, Megan ran into her father, Ron.
“I grabbed her as she tried to go by,” Ron says. “She told me that some kids were saying horrible stuff about her and she didn’t understand why. I told her it’s OK. I told her that they obviously don’t know her. And that it would be fine.”
Megan went to her room and Ron went downstairs to the kitchen, where he and Tina talked about what had happened, the MySpace account, and made dinner.
Twenty minutes later, Tina suddenly froze in mid-sentence.
“I had this God-awful feeling and I ran up into her room and she had hung herself in the closet.”
Megan Taylor Meier died the next day, three weeks before her 14th birthday.
Later that day, Ron opened his daughter’s MySpace account and viewed what he believes to be the final message Megan saw – one the FBI would be unable to retrieve from the hard drive.
It was from Josh and, according to Ron’s best recollection, it said, “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.”
They later discovered that there was no Josh and the people responsible with not only adults but their neighbors — according to a neighbor.
The neighbor from down the street, a single mom with a daughter the same age as Megan, informed the Meiers that Josh Evans never existed.
She told the Meiers that Josh Evans was created by adults, a family on their block. These adults, she told the Meiers, were the parents of Megan’s former girlfriend, the one with whom she had a falling out. These were the people who’d asked the Meiers to store their foosball table.
The single mother, for this story, requested that her name not be used. She said her daughter, who had carpooled with the family that was involved in creating the phony MySpace account, had the password to the Josh Evans account and had sent one message – the one Megan received (and later retrieved off the hard drive) the night before she took her life.
“She had been encouraged to join in the joke,” the single mother said.
The single mother said her daughter feels the guilt of not saying something sooner and for writing that message. Her daughter didn’t speak out sooner because she’d known the other family for years and thought that what they were doing must be OK because, after all, they were trusted adults.
On the night the ambulance came for Megan, the single mother said, before it left the Meiers’ house her daughter received a call. It was the woman behind the creation of the Josh Evans account. She had called to tell the girl that something had happened to Megan and advised the girl not to mention the MySpace account.
. . . “I know that they did not physically come up to our house and tie a belt around her neck,” Tina says. “But when adults are involved and continue to screw with a 13-year-old – with or without mental problems – it is absolutely vile.
“She wanted to get Megan to feel like she was liked by a boy and let everyone know this was a false MySpace and have everyone laugh at her.
“I don’t feel their intentions were for her to kill herself. But that’s how it ended.”
‘GAINING MEGAN’S CONFIDENCE’
That same day, the family down the street tried to talk to the Meiers. Ron asked friends to convince them to leave before he physically harmed them.
In a letter dated Nov. 30, 2006, the family tells Ron and Tina, “We are sorry for the extreme pain you are going through and can only imagine how difficult it must be. We have every compassion for you and your family.”
It turns out that these neighbors were friends. The Meiers even agreed to allow the family to use their storage.
No criminal charges are being brought in the case, which is tragic but understandable. It is not a crime to be monstrous and mean. However, Megan’s now divorced parents have declined to sue in torts for this alleged outrage. While it would be a difficult, it is not an impossible case. There can be novel claims of negligence in such a case. There is also intentional infliction of emotional distress claims that could be attempted as part of a wrongful death claim. (The parents themselves may even be able to claim intentional or negligent infliction given their close family relationship and proxmity to the death — though this would also be novel).
In the meantime, the Meiers are getting a divorce and Ron Meier is facing criminal charges for driving his truck across the lawn of the family, which was caught on tape by a security camera the neighbors installed on their home.
What is equally amazing is that the newspaper has withheld the names of these responsible adults. While it is understandable that they want to protect the daughter of these people, it is important for the public to knew if there are adults in their community who act in this fashion. Newspapers should not protect adults from well-earned stigma. There is no hesitation to reveal the identity of an adult who is found to be using the internet for sexual abuse. This would constitute a clear form of mental abuse committed on a minor. Yet, the responsible adults are able to continue in anonymity. A neighbors is quoted as saying that she has no idea who in the neighborhood was responsible.
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