Remember the sad story of Megan Meier, the 13-year-old girl who killed herself after being ridiculed by a fictional “friend” on MySpace? A grand jury in Los Angeles is investigating charges that the mother who created or helped her daughter, a former friend of Megan’s, create the Josh Evans identity committed fraud against the Beverly Hills-based company.
This story was, not surprisingly, at the top of the headlines across the country in November. For a better view, The New Yorker sent Lauren Collins to Dardenne Prairie, Mo. Here’s her story.
Teen-age identities mutate so quickly online, and can be masked so easily, that by the morning after Megan was pronounced dead Josh Evans had vanished from MySpace. It wasnât until a month after her death that a neighbor named Michele Mulford told the Meiers that Curt and Lori Drew, who lived four houses down, had created âJoshâ in concert with their thirteen-year-old daughter, a longtime friend of Meganâs. (An eighteen-year-old girl who worked for the Drews was also involved.) The two thirteen-year-olds had recently quarrelled. Mulfordâs own daughter, also thirteen, had been given the password to the account, and had sent at least one unkind message to Megan in Joshâs name. Megan had accompanied the Drews on several vacations, and they knew that she was taking medication.
For nearly a year, on the advice of the police, the Meiers had kept quiet about the Drewsâ involvement in Meganâs death. After investigators determined that the Drewsâ actions, if cruel, had not broken any laws, the Meiers spoke with Steve Pokin, a columnist at the local paper, the Suburban Journals. Pokin revealed the ruse in his column, âPokinâ Around,â on November 13th of last year. âI know that they did not physically come up to our house and tie a belt around her neck,â Tina Meier told Pokin. âBut when adults are involved and continue to screw with a thirteen-year-oldâwith or without mental problemsâit is absolutely vile.â
In the three weeks since Steve Pokinâs article appeared, public opinion against the Drews had been harsh, verging on violent. Much of the outrage was directed at Lori Drew as an exemplar of the micromanaging âhelicopter parent,â a familiar image at least since the Wanda Holloway case. In Channelview, Texas, in 1991, Holloway, a homemaker, attempted to hire a hit man to eliminate a neighbor, Verna Heath, the mother of a girl, Amber, who had twice been elected cheerleader over Hollowayâs daughter, Shanna. But Channelview and Dardenne Prairie, where teen-agers still have after-school jobs, are not type-A parent/overscheduled kid kinds of towns. Like Wanda Holloway, Lori Drew may not have represented a helicopter parent so much as a more ancient archetype: the resentful neighbor.
Lori Drew has shown little remorse, contending, through a lawyer, that she is the undeserving victim of an âavalanche of criticism.â Her statement suggests that she may have been less an overbearing parent than an indifferent one:
Although she was aware of the account, Lori Drew never sent any messages to Megan or to anyone else using this MySpace account. . . . Lori Drew was not aware of any mean, nasty or negative comments made by anyone against Megan until after Megan took her own life. . . .
Pam Fogarty, the mayor, had two hundred unanswered e-mails in her in-box. âPeople are shocked, and theyâre pissed as hell!â she told me. Fogarty