Thursday, 22 November 2007

Where is the Rest of the Story?

Should it be "Punishment for Lori" or "Justice for Megan"? The suicide of Megan Meier was tragic. Unfortunately in their quest to sensationalize and drive up readership, the newspapers and media appear to be blindly pursuing a single element of the story. This tragedy has been oversimplified and is not nearly as cut and dried as it is made out to be. As a result, the mindless rage of the Internet lynch mob has taken a narrow aim at Lori Drew and her family. The mob is determined to exact vengeance by any means: fair or unfair, legal or illegal.

For the sake of discussion let's absolve Megan herself of any responsibility. Teen suicide is unfortunately all too common. Mental illness and suicides are complex subjects. The definition of suicide is to kill oneself. According to the Mental Health Association, "Suicide was the decision of the person who died." There is no doubt that Megan Meier took her own life by hanging herself. No one has alleged that Lori Drew or anyone else tied the belt around Megan's neck. What were the circumstances?

Surprisingly, none of the vigilante sleuths has yet posted Megan Meier's medical records. Presumably she was being treated for Depression and Attention Deficit Disorder. These diagnoses are not without controversy themselves. It has been alleged that many children are being overmedicated and misdiagnosed for these ailments. What treatment was Megan receiving and who were her doctors or therapists? What medications, if any, was she taking and in what dosages?

Coincidentally, two months after Megan's suicide, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that antidepressants double the risk of suicidal behavior in young adults. (Psychiatrists have disputed the FDA report.) Pharmaceutical companies are often accused of promoting their drugs to enrich themselves in collusion with doctors who write prescriptions for their own financial gain.

Why has no one pressed for an investigation into Megan's medical treatment? If Megan was or was not taking antidepressants, there is a chance the medication or lack thereof contributed to her suicide. From a medical perspective, it may have been as much or more of a factor than the emotional distress resulting from her interactions with her imaginary boyfriend.

The possibility of a civil lawsuit is often mentioned and encouraged by the vigilantes. Wouldn't the potential judgment or settlement from a pharmaceutical company or malpractice insurer be higher than anything the family of Lori Drew could possibly pay? Since the same vigilantes are calling for the boycott of the Drew family business and their economic destruction by shunning them from employment, they would be in no position to pay any judgment to the Meier family.

The potential culpability of Megan's own family is steadfastly denied. According to the vigilantes, Christina Meier was a perfect parent. Interestingly, the rules of Myspace forbid 13-year-olds. Therefore, if Megan's mother was constantly monitoring her online activities, why was she allowing her mentally ill daughter to break the very rules put in place for her own safety?

Megan Meier had an imaginary on-line boyfriend. Her mother Christina evidently knew about the relationship and thought it was perfectly acceptable. Naturally, she wouldn't suspect Josh Evans was actually the mother of one of Megan's friends. But, did she never suspect that this unseen person might be not an attractive young boy, but a fat, balding, 50-year-old pedophile in a dirty wifebeater t-shirt? Had Christina Meier never heard of on-line predators who impersonate children?

Did Christina Meier discuss this on-line relationship with Megan's mental health professionals? What advice did Megan's doctors and therapists give regarding her close relationship to person she had never met? Shouldn't Megan's counselors have been aware that Megan was close enough to the imaginary Josh Evans that she was liable to kill herself on his account? Wouldn't it have been prudent to advise Megan or her mother to avoid giving this unseen person such a prominent role in her life that she would end it because of him?

According to the police report, in the minutes prior to her death, Megan and her mother had been "arguing over the computer and possibly a Myspace account". Why was the word "possibly" used in the police report? Which Myspace account--Megan's own, or the imaginary Josh Evans account? How serious was this argument? What were the major points of contention? Were the issues more related to usage of the computer, or one of the accounts, and which account? In the weeks, months, days, and hours before her death, how often did Megan and her mother argue?

None of these questions in any way excuse whatever Lori Drew may have done to cause distress in Megan. There is no excuse for harming in a child, particularly one with a mental illness. However, a careful reading of the police reports shows the story is not quite so neat and tidy as presented by the sensationalist newspaper article and its followers. There are many open questions and different possible interpretation about the actual events.

Most of the lore has been spun out of police reports. The police reports have been misquoted, and one report itself contains errors. On page 2 of the report taken by officer Edwin Lutz on 11/28/2006, Lutz reports "Meier stated she and her husband attempted to contact the Meier family" (sic). This is obviously an error.

Other items in the police reports need clarification: Lori admitted she "instigated and monitored" the account. Who actually created the account? How closely did Lori monitor it and did she see all communications or just some of them? Lori said she, her daughter, and Ashley all read, typed, and monitored the correspondence. Does she mean to use the word "all" as in jointly or severally? That is, did they all monitor all of the communications, or did some monitor some communications and some monitor others? The report states she said "the conversation became sexual for a 13-year-old." What is the definition of "sexually for a 13-year old"? Individual standards and definitions of what is sexual for a 13-year old can vary widely. What some people would consider a PG-rated conversation might shock others, who would rate the same conversation as XXX.

Who are these mysterious "others" who got control of the fake Myspace account and sent messages? If Megan knew that Josh Evans did not exist, why was she so upset over a message sent by a nonexistent person?

Other children at Megan's school claim that it was in fact Lori's daughter who sent most of the hurtful messages. Is it possible that Lori lied to the police and exaggerated her own role in he hoax in order to protect her daughter?

What is the husband of Lori Drew alleged to have done? The vigilantes have been quite adamant in demanding the whole family be shunned, and that her husband not be allowed to earn an honest living to support his family. One commenter gleefully reported he had recently lost his job, ostensibly due to the "shunning." What exactly was Lori's husband supposed to have done to harm Megan Meier? A real life, or in this case real death, situation is never as simple as a newspaper article makes it out to be. Lori did not act appropriately towards another child. Nevertheless, many questions should be answered before she is convicted as a murderer who had principal responsibility for Megan's death. There may even be other parties as much or more culpable.

Bluemerle: The Smoking Gun has It -

Antidepressants a Suicide Risk for Young Adults - Washington Post 14th December 2006

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

In October 2006, a troubled young girl in Missouri named Megan Meier committed suicide. Her medical records have not been disclosed, but an adult woman has been accused of harassing Megan over the Internet; perhaps contributing to the feelings of depression which lead Megan to take her own life. The adult woman, who is married and has a young daughter of the same age as Megan, has not been charged with a crime.

In the past few days, a host of web sites and blogs have suddenly taken an interest in this tragic story. Interestingly, these sites condemn what the adult woman allegedly did to the Megan Meier, yet they simultaneously encourage, enable, and facilitate their readers to take similar actions and worse against the adult woman and her family.

These web sites and blogs invariably tell the story from a one-sided perspective and portray the adult woman as a villain who is principally to blame for the suicide. Although this woman has not been convicted, tried, nor even charged with a crime, the sites invariably begin with an assumption of her guilt. They then seek to exact revenge and punishment on her and her family. The comment areas on the sites are filled with hate speech, threats, and lust for vengeance. The general climate is reminiscent of a lynch mob equipped with torches and pitchforks, worked into a self-sustaining rage.

The sites post personal information about the woman and her family such as home and business addresses, e-mail addresses, phone, fax, and cellphone numbers; and encourage their readers to track down more information. This information is posted with no legitimate purpose or rationale for its presence. One can safely conclude the objective is to facilitate illegal harassment, vandalism, or worse.

These sites encourage readers to boycott and destroy the business of the woman's family. Evidently they have not thought this through: Successfully eliminating the family's source of income could result in them being directly supported by these same readers' taxes, through welfare and foodstamps. Of course, no one has accused the bloggers of being very bright in their blood-lust.

Over the past months, the woman and her family have been victimized by illegal harassment, vandalism, bricks thrown through their windows, and false 911 police calls to their home. Note that a brick could easily kill the child or other occupant, and false police calls can result in death of someone elsewhere who really needs the police. Despite such history, or perhaps encouraged by it, the blog sites call for more...


Bluemerle site Let's examine this site first...

The owner of this site, Sarah Wells, is credited wth being one of the first to "break" the names of the family. She states "Why I or anyone would go looking for (woman's name)'s identity is no mystery...It was curiosity and disbelief that led me to search, at first. at first... " (sic) Mrs. Wells never finishes her explanation, and cleverly avoids giving a legitimate rationale for posting the information on the Internet. Moreover, she has allowed address, phone, and fax and cell phone numbers to be posted on her site, along with instructions to "Let (woman's name) know how you feel" She also has instructions posted how to text-message the woman. Sounds a lot like harassment, doesn't it? Isn't that illegal? Sara Wells herself says the woman deserves "scorn."

For days, Mrs. Wells encouraged and fed the vengeful frenzy. She even allowed death threats on her site while selectively deleting other posts which did not meet her approval. (I have archived copies of her site over several days to back up this assertion.) Eventually, Mrs. Wells began to make token disclaimer statements against violence. She eventually removed the death threat posting after repeated entreaties, but apologized to the poster with the comment "Sorry, you are drawing trolls."

As of this morning, the personal contact information is still on Sarah's site. Sarah Wells has simply said the information is there so that "people can get in touch with the woman for legitimate may wish to simply know how to avoid her" Sarah Wells believes she is doing a favor of providing this woman's phone number so that we may block her incoming calls. Interesting... The question is: "Would a reasonable person think this information is more likely to be used for legitimate means or criminal harassment?" One can speculate about the true state of Mrs. Wells' mind, but even she herself may not know...

Sarah Wells says "I prefer to be obscure but discoverable. I let it lurk, little monster in the deep, like a seabeast dangling unlit bait, until such time it flashes on the hot-donut sign and draws the little fishes into it's fangtooth maw. For a purpose. Or a service"

To help anyone get in touch with the self-proclaimed "Little Monster" Sarah Wells for "legitimate reasons," here is a little of her discoverable public information. Please be civil to her, although she may respond with less-than-civil name calling. Vengeful people often aren't very nice to talk to.

Sarah Wells is 45 years old, posts under her own name and lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband and teenage son (who I will not name, nor disclose other details about). Her approx. 50-year old husband Michael O. Wells is a well known attorney admired for his role as an imperonator/interpreter of the great patriot, Patrick Henry. He has performed widely in this role and you can see him at St. John's church in Richmond. If you can stomach the thought of his wife's vigilantism, these performances are well worth seeing. As far as I know, Patrick Henry himself did not endorse vigilantism.

Sarah Wells
406 Waveny Road, Richmond, VA 23229

Michael O. Wells
Smith & Wells, P.C.
1330 Alverser Plaza
Midlothian, VA 23113
tel: 804-794-8070 fax: 804-794-5475

Pictures of Sarah and Michael Wells

Picture of Sarah WellsPicture of Michael Wells

Map to her house (will open in a new browser window)

Aerial view of her house (will open in a new browser window)

Photos of her house (coming soon)

Links of original infamous post by Mrs. Wells
Bluemerle: Lori Drew CNN capture - Police report names Drew


Details of other sites and their owners promoting vigilantism and mob justice for Megan Meier will follow. If anyone has suggestions of particularly egregious sites or bloggers, please pass them along, and I will get things rolling. has posted stories which have inspired violent reactions and disclosure of private information. One might wonder how their female writers and editors would feel about their own photos, addresses, and phone numbers being publicly posted on the Internet. Fortunately, they do seem to be cooling down a bit after some probing questions. Unfortunately, they are not policing the posters who sound like an al-quaida cell plotting death and destruction.

Gillian has also come around and is policing her Blogging the burbs site. Thank you, Gillian.