The story of Megan Meier is a story that is extremely inspirational, has sad parts, but in the end it's a positive story. My daughter Megan was born on November 6 of 1992. She was this amazing girl. But through elementary and middle school years did struggle with self-esteem. She was diagnosed with depression and attention deficit disorder. And Megan struggled so severely with bullying that we switched her schools for 8th grade.
And that 8th grade year Megan started evolving, started really kind of coming into the girl that she wanted to be. She was doing really well, new friends, started volleyball, was doing just phenomenal, and asked to have a MySpace account. And as a very protective parent, I was concerned about sexual predators. And I said, oh, no way. No way, positive. I'm not going to allow you to do this.
And Megan begged. I eventually did allow her to have a MySpace, but with very strict rules. and Megan befriended a boy by the name of Josh Evans. And she thought he was cute, and he thought she was cute. And at the age of almost 14, I monitored this quite a bit. They really liked each other in the beginning. And of course, I would say, Megan, honey, come on. You don't know who this person is. You have to make sure you do not give out your phone number. You do not give out your address, your school. I was very, very protective with those things.
Of course she thought I was an overprotective mom and thought I was a little crazy with that, but during this period of time, now five weeks, their friendship really dwindled. They talked just a little bit. But now it's Sunday, October 15th, 2006. And Megan had two volleyball games that morning. That evening, she was getting ready for a huge birthday party, for her 14th birthday party. And asked to sign onto MySpace. I signed her on because I was the one that had her password. Megan did not have the password to her account, because I knew Megan. With a child who has ADD, with a child who struggles and really wants to be part of these groups - Megan was the kid who would do the extreme sometimes just to fit in. So I had to watch and monitor the things she did.
Megan now was filling out her birthday invitations. And she received a message from Josh out of the blue that said, I don't want to be friends with you anymore. You're not a nice person. Megan was kind of confused. It's not a horrible message. She just didn't understand it. And she sent a message and said, what are you talking about?
It started getting late, and I told her it was time to sign off. The next morning Megan wakes up for school. She was in a great mood. All of her birthday invitations together. And on the way to school, Megan was this phenomenal kid. Of course she made mistakes. She said things, did things she shouldn't have done, like most teenagers do. But she really had a big heart. And what Megan would do is if somebody was having a bad day, she would ask me to go to the gas station. She would run in and she would pick up two Hershey candy bar. One Hershey candy bar she gave to a friend who was having a bad day to kind of cheer them up. And the other Hershey candy bar she would break up and share with some other kids during the day.
So she did that that morning. I picked her up after school, and she came running out. She was in this great mood. She was yelling, mom, everybody's coming to the party. It's going to be amazing. We're doing all of these things. We get in the car, we go home. The second we walk in the door, Megan instantly wants to sign onto MySpace. She wants to know what did Josh say. Did he respond? And I signed her on, but I said, Megan, you've got a few minutes. I've got to take your sister to the orthodontist.
I signed her on, and the message that came in late from the night before said, you heard me. No one likes you. No one wants to be friends with you. Megan was upset and said, why are you saying this? I am nice unless somebody's mean to me. And I knew that they were going back and forth, but then I was checking also for my other daughter. And I saw that she got off the bus, and I yelled and said, Meg, honey, you've got to sign off. I've got to leave.
Typically, I monitored and made sure that she signed off, but I was in a rush this day. As I left, I called Megan two different times from the orthodontist's office. Both times, she was crying and in tears. And I kept saying, are you on MySpace. Please, I told you sign off, Meg. Come on, honey. I will be home.
I came home, Megan was still crying at the computer. And I sat down and looked at these messages. And I was frustrated, because I had told her to sign off. I knew she was upset. It had been a long day. I looked at the messages going from this boy Josh to Megan, Megan back to Josh and now Josh got two other girls involved. The things that went out were humiliating, mean, and cruel. And they used Megan's first name, last name, calling her a fat blank. Calling her all of these things.
Well she was completely distraught. But then I saw that Megan was now fighting back defending herself. And as a mom, I've always taught her, honey, the war of words never works. I mean, they're saying things about you. Now you're saying things about them. Honey, turns into this huge explosion. I'm like, Meg, you should have listened to me. If you would have signed off when I told you to, it wouldn't have turned into this huge explosion. I said, Meg, you're not any of these things that they're calling you. She said, mom, who's going to believe me? They're going to believe them. She's going to everybody at my old school, everybody at my new school. No one's going to believe me.
She said, you're supposed to be my mom. You're supposed to be on my side. And she took off running upstairs to her room. I heard her dad stop her at the of the stairs, and he came into the kitchen. And we were discussing. Her father was the type that she didn't need a MySpace. She didn't a cell phone. She didn't need a camera. She didn't need any of those things. He really was that father. He loved her and adored her, but he felt that listen, she just needs to go outside and play and everything would be fine.
Well, I was explaining to him what was going on and why she was upset and how all of this transpired. And as a parent, I just got this horrible feeling that ran through my entire body. I stopped in mid-sentence. I ran upstairs into Megan's room. I opened the door. And I found Megan hanging in her closet. We called 911. The paramedics arrived. Unfortunately her 10 ½ year old sister ran in the midst of all of this. When the paramedics arrived, Megan was lifeless still at that point. They did get her heart started and got her to start breathing again. She was transported to Children's Hospital in St. Louis. But 24 hours later, Megan passed away on October 17th of 2006.
You know, as a parent, there is no loss like the loss of a child. It is something that absolutely transforms you the moment that they take their last breath. You know, we worry so much about if they're going to trip and fall or cuts and bruises. And we worry about those things and protecting them that you don't, your worst fear, you don't think about those things. And as a parent, there was nothing I could do, no matter how hard I tried. From that night, her dad went back to the house to see was there a note? Was there something? How did we miss this? We were right there.
I couldn't go back to the house. And he said that there was no note, no nothing. But he did see on instant messaging at the time, that the last messages to Megan that I did not see the night before said, the world would be a better place without you. And have a [blank] rest of your life.
Those are things that people don't understand how others can interpret it. They don't know what they're feeling, what they're going through, their self-esteem. And when they say that to Megan, unfortunately, she felt that everybody felt this way, everybody was against her. And unfortunately Megan made a permanent decision for something that could have been temporary.
Five weeks after Megan passed away on Thanksgiving weekend, we received a call from a neighbor down the street - I didn't know her very well - saying that we really needed to come to a meeting about Megan's death. We were extremely confused, but we went to this meeting. And at the meeting we were informed that that cute boy Josh Megan had been talking to was fake. Josh never existed. Josh was in fact a mother, Lorie Drew, who lived four houses down the street, who was 46 at the time. Her daughter Sarah, who was 13, who had been friends with Megan since the 4th grade and another 18th year old girl Ashley who worked out of that mom's house part time. These three created the Josh Evans account. And they created it because Megan and Sarah's friendship fell apart in the 7th grade. And they wanted to know if Megan was talking about her daughter behind her back now in 8th grade.
So they decided that they would create this account, gain Megan's confidence, and they would see was Megan really talking about her.
I always explain to people. I don't think that 5 weeks prior to Megan's death this family knew that Megan was going to take her own life. I think they thought it was a joke, it was funny, ha ha we're going to show her. And she's talking about you. We're going to let her know that it's not okay. But these things that you think are funny and a joke can turn into tragedies. And this went on for five weeks.
I will tell you the amount of sadness and the amount of anger I felt inside, literally I almost felt like I was going to bust. Of course when somebody you know that has intentionally done something to harm your child whether it's physically or emotionally, you feel like you are strapped, that you can't do anything, and that's how I felt. I knew that we couldn't go physically do anything to them. Nothing we did was going to bring Megan back. And we had another daughter. Our daughter Allison who was 10 ½, who was this innocent amazing kid just had her whole entire life turned upside down. And her parents who were always her parents are not her parents anymore because they are so stricken with grief, they're walking like zombies.
And we are grateful that we had support from family and friends that said, listen, go through the judicial system. Do not go near them. Stay away from them. And as hard as it was laying in bed four houses down the street from them, it is what we did. So we contacted an attorney. And then they put us in touch with the FBI. The FBI did do a lengthy investigation, and found that in the state of Missouri that there were not any laws. That they could not charge her. We did not have anything to do with electronic communication.
Our laws were harassment, stalking, and child endangerment. But again, electronic communications were not part of that. So we were told, listen, get the laws changed. Do something if you want to do something in the name of your daughter. And I thought, well that's great. How do you even begin to do that? What do you do? It took probably another 3-4 months of really coming out of this fog trying to figure out how did this happen and we felt there is no justice. Something has to be done. And we did one newspaper article. I was separated from my husband at the time, which unfortunately it's quite often that when a family goes through the tragedy of a child that about 85-90% of marriages or relationships don't make it. And it's truly because of the grief that you're going through. Everybody handles grief differently. And you can't be there to support each other, because you're just trying to breathe every day, to get through that day.
So we did, were in contact with a journalist by the name of Steve Poken, and he was just a local journalist. And our thought was maybe if we do one story now, because we had to keep it quiet for that year before, maybe a legislator, a representative will pay attention and realize we want to get laws changed. From that one newspaper article that we did, that is when the entire media world came knocking at the doors. It was local at first, and then it quickly went to national and then it was international news. And everybody was at our doorsteps. And I think that society knew that these things could happen. And they understood sexual predators. They understood that. But understanding that a neighbor 4 houses down the street would create this fake account acting as a boy, to people it was unthinkable. How could this happen? Why? And I think that's what really took hold.
From that we did have a governor at the time that really wanted to do something. And he issued an internet task force. I was part of that task force, and I went and testified several times. And we did get the laws in the State of Missouri changed. And it was Senate Bill 818, and that was in August of 2008, which really amended the harassment and stalking laws to include electronic communications.
Even with that, we knew that this was not going to - it wouldn't go back and prosecute Lorie Drew. So we knew that we had to move forward, and I knew that I had to do something to help kids. And I could not just keep quiet with what happened. Now in the midst of all of this, we received a call from the LA Times. And they informed me, did you know that Lorie Drew is being indicted on 4 federal charges in Los Angeles. I said no. I had no idea. And I was rushed to the airport to fly out to LA to speak on the Today Show to talk about this indictment. I really had no clue what was going on.
The Los Angeles prosecuting attorney at the time, Thomas O'Brien, heard about the story, and felt it was unjust that nothing was done. And they realized that MySpace's headquarters were based in Los Angeles. And what they did is they really - I am grateful to every single person who worked on this case. Because they really took the chance of saying, this isn't okay. Something has to be done. And the federal grand jury indicted Lorie Drew on four federal charges. And it was violating the terms of service.
We knew it was a long shot. But at the end of the day for somebody to finally stand up and say, listen, we're going to make a statement, we're going to stand up, we're going to do something about this. And that's really what we wanted to do. And we did go through with the trial. In November of 2008, almost two years after Megan passed away, we did have the trial, and it was about five days long. The jury came back, and unfortunately they found her guilty on three misdemeanors. And they were deadlocked on the fourth. The judge continued the case several months And in July of 2009 he overturned the case stating that it was unconstitutional to convict Lorie Drew. That basically he would have to convict any person who online lied about their name, their age, the place that they worked, and he felt that was unjust.
At the end of the day, I really knew at the trial and really knew at sentencing when I really looked at Lorie Drew and realized she did not have one ounce of remorse, I knew that no matter what happened that it wasn't about her anymore. This isn't about her and what happened. Megan was so much more than that. We made a statement. We let the world know that these are issues. We do need to look into it. We need to get policies in place. We need to get parents to understand, kids to understand, and that's really what this case did. And from that, I was going to leave Lori Drew and that family behind. And I was going to really focus on the Megan Meier foundation, which is to bring the awareness and the education and promote positive change to children, parents, and educators about the issues that surround bullying and cyber bullying. And that's truly what we've done since day one, and we are on this mission, and this is what I will do for the rest of my life, because every single child and every parent and every educator deserves to be able to have help in these situations, because bullying and cyberbullying, they won't ever go away, but we can certainly do things to help that.