ST. LOUIS (AP) – People who sent cruel Internet messages to a 13-year-old girl before she committed suicide won’t face criminal charges, a suburban St. Louis prosecutor announced Monday.

St. Charles County prosecutor Jack Banas said that while he understands the public outrage over Megan Meier’s death, he could not find statutes allowing him to charge anyone in the case.

“We were certainly hopeful that there was going to be some sort of prosecution, but I’m certainly not surprised,” said Megan’s mother, Tina Meier.

The Dardenne Prairie girl’s parents say she hanged herself Oct. 16, 2006, minutes after she became distraught over mean messages received through the social networking site MySpace. She died the next day, and weeks later her family learned that a boy she had been communicating with online did not actually exist.

A police report said that a mother from the neighborhood and her then-18-year-old employee fabricated a profile for a teenage boy online who pretended to be interested in Megan before he began bullying her.

“I think people are upset that a parent got involved in something so childish, and that a young girl committed suicide,” Banas said in a telephone interview.

The police report indicates others gained access to the profile, and there’s a dispute over who specifically was involved in sending Meier messages just before her death.

The 18-year-old, posing as Josh, sent one of the last messages telling Megan the world would be better off without her, Banas said.

Banas said he took a look at the case after federal authorities said no federal crime was committed. He said he reviewed laws related to stalking, harassment and child endangerment before making his announcement.

Banas said harassment and stalking laws both require proof that communication was made to frighten, disturb or harass someone. In this case, he said, the fictitious MySpace profile was created not to bully Megan, but to find out what she was saying about the neighborhood mother’s then-13-year-old daughter, a former friend.

“There are a few statements at the end that are a heated argument,” he said. “That’s why you have a hard time making a harassment case.”

Reaction to the case has been strong, with angry postings on the Internet identifying the family behind the fake profile. The household has reported vandalism, including a brick through a window, once word got out about the circumstances surrounding the death. Police have stepped up patrols in the area.

The family whose members created the site have previously declined to comment and did not answer phone calls Monday.

Banas said he was unable to speak directly with the 18-year-old employee, who he said has been hospitalized for psychiatric treatment. He said it’s his understanding that the girl from the neighborhood is now being home-schooled.

Meier’s family has been seeking legal changes since it became clear in recent weeks that it was unlikely anyone would be charged. Two Missouri communities, including Dardenne Prairie, have changed local laws to make Internet harassment a crime, and several others are considering measures. Changes are also being proposed to state law.

Banas issued two pages about the case, noting disagreements between the neighborhood mother and her employee over what happened.

For instance, the mother said her daughter and the employee came to her with the idea of creating the MySpace account. The employee said she created the account, but that it came from a brainstorming effort by all three.

The mother maintained communications were supposed to remain civil.

“She stated that she told the girls if they were going to do this, they were only to speak to Megan in polite terms and not say anything disrespectful,” those documents say.

The 18-year-old employee told the FBI that any time the 13-year-old talked to Megan on MySpace, the child’s mother was present.

The mother told the FBI she was not home when heated exchanges took place before the death. The 18-year-old employee first said the woman was, then said she was not, but that the woman’s husband was.

Tina Meier said the bottom line for her was that the other mother knew about the fake profile, knew Megan was on medication, and let the hoax continue. She said the fake profile was deleted right after the death. Then, she said, the woman didn’t come clean.

“Our daughter died, committed suicide, and she still didn’t say a word,” Meier said. “I still feel what she did is absolutely criminal.”

Meier’s family has talked to attorneys about the case but has not filed a lawsuit.

Meier has acknowledged that Megan was too young to have a MySpace account under the Web site’s guidelines. But Tina Meier has explained that she was able to closely monitor the account.

Meier said she has no hard feelings toward the 18-year-old.

“I really hope she gets the help she needs, and I don’t think she meant for this to happen to Megan,” she said, adding that perhaps one day that woman will be able to educate people against cyberbullying.

Of Megan’s 13-year-old former friend, she said: “I certainly don’t wish her any harm. Unfortunately, she doesn’t get to pick her parents.”

AP-ES-12-03-07 1856EST


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