No charges against impersonators in Internet suicide case

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- St. Charles County officials who did not charge anyone in an online hoax played on a 13-year-old girl who committed suicide also will not pursue charges against bloggers falsely posing on the Internet as a woman linked to the case.

St. Charles County Prosecutor Jack Banas said Tuesday that the sheriff's department investigated those who posed as Lori Drew on the Internet. Because the bloggers were from outside of Missouri and had not sent messages to either family involved in the case, and the difficulty of legally proving the identity and actions of people behind their Internet addresses, charges are not being pursued in the impersonation case, Banas said.

A Dardenne Prairie girl, Megan Meier, thought she was corresponding over MySpace with a cute boy named "Josh Evans" online. The boy never existed. Instead, Drew, a neighborhood mother; her 18-year-old employee; and 13-year-old daughter and Megan's one-time friend, were linked to the hoax.

When messages from the fictional boy and others on the Internet turned cruel, including one stating the world would be better off without her, Megan hanged herself in October 2006.

Drew has denied saying hurtful things to the girl over the Internet or having knowledge of the mean messages prior to Megan's death, and no one was charged in the case.

But after news accounts of the story fueled outrage about the case, a blog entitled "Megan Had It Coming" surfaced last year. The person writing the blog then falsely claimed the messages were being written by Lori Drew. The blog claimed to share Drew's would-be motives for getting involved with the MySpace hoax against Meier.

Banas said he did not have the names of those allegedly involved in the online impersonation of Drew. The St. Charles County Sheriff's Department referred questions to Banas' office.

Meier's death prompted her hometown of Dardenne Prairie to adopt a law making it a misdemeanor to engage in Internet harassment, leading to speculation in the community that the law's first use could have been to prosecute the alleged harassment of the Drews.

Dardenne Prairie Mayor Pam Fogarty said the town has not been asked to look into a municipal harassment charge tied to the Drew impersonation, and the community will not pursue the matter without a request being made.

Banas also confirmed that a misdemeanor charge against Ron Meier, Megan's father, for allegedly driving his pickup truck across the Drews' lawn in March 2007 was dropped earlier this month.

Lori Drew's attorney, Jim Briscoe, said there had not been additional property damage to the Drews' residence and that the family was able to fix the damage for less money than they had anticipated. He relayed to Banas' office that the Drews were not interested in pursuing the matter, if that's what prosecutors decided was best, he said.

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