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Family of Dying Child Cyber Bullied by Neighbors
The family of Kathleen Edward, a 7-year-old Michigan girl in the late stages of a terminal illness, is dealing with not only the girl's deteriorating health, but also online and in-person harassment from their neighbors, ABC News reports.
Kathleen is in the late stages of Huntington's Disease, a genetic degenerative brain disorder that her mother, Laura Edward, died of last year.
The Edward's neighbor, Jennifer Petkov, posted images on Facebook of Laura in the arms of the Grim Reaper and Kathleen above a set of crossbones. She and her husband, Scott Petkov, put a coffin on their truck and drove past the Edward home, honking the horn, ABC News reports.
Jennifer Petkov tells Detroit news station WJBK that she posted the photos for "personal satisfaction" and to upset Kathleen's grandmother.
Since the story has been reported in the media, Jennifer Petkov has been attacked on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Also, Scott Petkov tells the Detroit News that, as a result of the Facebook page Jennifer created, last week his employer suspended him with pay from his job as a forklift repairman, and he could be fired.
The Petkovs have since apologized to the Edward family, telling the Detroit News their actions were "ignorant." They say they would apologize in person, but the Edward family has personal protective orders against their neighbors.
"What I did was ignorant and wrong and I would walk right across this street now and apologize, if it weren't for the PPO (personal protection order issued against her earlier by a court)," Jennifer Petkov tells the Detroit News. "I'm not proud of myself because this went from a neighborhood dispute to a huge thing."
Cheryl Dellasega, author and professor of humanities at Penn State University College of Medicine in Hershey, Penn., calls the situation the "most extreme case [of cyber-bullying] I've ever heard of." She adds, "I have to wonder if there wasn't some pathology involved that they would need to express something so heinous online. They couldn't work their negative feelings out in some other way, like through counseling."
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