The parents of a 13-year-old Missouri girl who hanged herself after a failed MySpace romance — later uncovered as a hoax — say they have yet to receive an apology from the family they blame for their daughter’s death.
“They’ve absolutely offered no apologies,” Ron Meier told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer on Monday. “They sent us a letter in the mail, basically saying that they might feel a little bit of responsibility, but they don’t feel no guilt or remorse or anything for what they did.”
Rather, said Tina Meier, the people are upset with her for going public with their story. Last week, while shopping, she ran into the woman who invented the hoax, Tina Meier said.
“She asked me to stop doing all of this,” she told Lauer. “I told her that we would not stop, that we were going to continue for justice for Megan because we knew what they did.”
The Meiers’ daughter, Megan, hanged herself Oct. 16, 2006.
The Meiers have not named the people because they do not want to identify their teenage daughter, who had once been a friend of Megan’s.
After the two girls had a falling out, the mother invented a 16-year-old boy, “Josh Evans,” created a MySpace account for him, and made Megan believe he was new in town and thought she was cool.
‘Oh, Mom, you don’t understand’
Megan, a girl who had battled attention deficit disorder, depression and a weight problem for much of her young life, believed him, despite her mother’s warnings to be cautious.
“That was always the talk,” Tina Meier told Lauer, repeating the conversations she had with her daughter: “‘Megan, c’mon, we don’t even know this person. Let’s not get too excited.’ She’d say, ‘Oh, Mom, you don’t understand.’ So I did talk to her daily about that. But children at this age, they don’t think that.”
And then the boy turned on Megan, leading a campaign of vilification and online name-calling that ended when Megan took her own life.
For a year, the Meiers kept quiet at the request of both the FBI and local law enforcement officials while they investigated the incident.
Ultimately, investigators told the Meiers that while the hoax was cruel, it was not criminal.
‘Continue to monitor your children’
The case remains open, though, and the Meiers continue to hope that criminal charges can be filed under a federal law passed in January 2006 that prohibits online harassment.
“We are still continuing on with the fight on the criminal and the civil side,” said Ron Meier.
The family’s story is, Tina Meier told Lauer, a cautionary tale about the trouble that lies in wait for kids on the Internet, a tale made more painful because they had monitored their daughter’s Internet use closely and had talked to her about “Josh” and the events that ended so tragically.
“It was monitored highly,” Tina Meier said of her daughter’s MySpace account. “We had the password. She couldn’t sign on without us. We had to be in the room” when she was online.
They have not filed a civil suit against the people who invented Josh, but are not ruling that out.
And they also want to warn other parents and children to beware of people online who claim to be their friends.
“Continue to monitor your children,” Tina Meier told Lauer. “Take an extra step. Ask the question. Look at their computers, know what they’re doing. To kids, don’t trust anybody online that you do not know is your true friend.”
Tina Meier has said that she doesn’t think anyone involved intended for her daughter to kill herself.
”But when adults are involved and continue to screw with a 13-year-old, with or without mental problems, it is absolutely vile,” she told the Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis, which first reported on the case.
Tina Meier said law enforcement officials told her the case did not fit into any law. But sheriff’s officials have not closed the case and pledged to consider new evidence if it emerges.
Megan Meier was described as a “bubbly, goofy” girl who loved spending time with her friends, watching movies and fishing with her dad.
Megan had been on medication, but had been upbeat before her death, her mother said, after striking up a relationship on MySpace with Josh Evans about six weeks before her death.
Josh told her he was born in Florida and had recently moved to the nearby community of O’Fallon. He said he was home-schooled, and didn’t yet have a phone number in the area to give her.
Megan’s parents said she received a message from him on Oct. 15 of last year, essentially saying he didn’t want to be her friend anymore, that he had heard she wasn’t nice to her friends.
Megan seemed upset
The next day, as Megan’s mother headed out the door to take another daughter to the orthodontist, she knew Megan was upset about Internet messages. She asked Megan to log off. Users on MySpace must be at least 14, though Megan was not when she opened her account. A MySpace spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.
Someone using Josh’s account was sending cruel messages. Then, Megan called her mother, saying electronic bulletins were being posted about her, saying things like “Megan Meier is a slut. Megan Meier is fat.”
Megan’s mother, who monitored her daughter’s online communications, returned home and said she was shocked at the vulgar language her own daughter was sending. She told her daughter how upset she was about it.
Megan ran upstairs, and her father, Ron, tried to tell her everything would be fine. About 20 minutes later, she was found in her bedroom. She died the next day.
Her father said he found a message the next day from Josh, which he said law enforcement authorities have not been able to retrieve. It told the girl she was a bad person and the world would be better without her, he has said.
Another parent, who learned of the MySpace account from her own daughter, who had access to the Josh profile, told Megan’s parents about the hoax in a counselor’s office about six weeks after Megan died. That’s when they learned Josh was imaginary, they said.
Creator of fake account not charged
The woman who created the fake profile has not been charged with a crime. She allegedly told the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department she created Josh’s profile because she wanted to gain Megan’s confidence to learn what Megan was saying about her own child online.
The mother from down the street told police that she, her daughter and another person all typed and monitored the communication between the fictitious boy and Megan.
A person who answered the door at the family’s house told an Associated Press reporter on Friday afternoon that they had been advised not to comment.
Megan’s parents had been storing a foosball table for the family that created the MySpace character. Six weeks after Megan’s death, they learned the other family had created the profile and responded by destroying the foosball table, dumping it on the neighbors’ driveway and encouraging them to move away.
Megan’s parents are now separated and plan to divorce.
Aldermen in Dardenne Prairie, a community of about 7,000 residents about 35 miles from St. Louis, have proposed a new ordinance related to child endangerment and Internet harassment. It could come before city leaders on Wednesday.
“Is this enough?” Mayor Pam Fogarty said Friday. “No, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s something, and you have to start somewhere.”