By: Deric Lostutter
TrueCrime is a non-fiction literary and film genre in which the author examines an actual crime and details the actions of real people. (source: Wikipedia)
TrueCrime has an almost occult like following, mostly online bloggers and Twitter users who gather into cliques or collective groups over specific topics like the Haleigh Cummings case out of Florida. Some voice their support of cases like this one, while other TrueCrime buffs take to more drastic actions, stalking and condemning anyone who differs from their belief and point of view.
Enter: The Middle Aged Women Collective
Cases like Haleigh Cummings, Heather Elvis, The Steubenville Rape Case and others, have created a huge online battle between TrueCrime buffs that some may say, take away from the real cause or justice for the victims themselves. Taking to WordPress sites and Twitter, a growing collective of what I have experienced to be middle aged women, spew vitriol and hatred at others who take the side of the accused, or sometimes vice versa.
In December of 2015 I was approached by two people at my day-job, to locate and identify people behind the now-defunct Moorer Case Discussion Group, ran by a woman who calls herself the “Farmer“. Her and her followers attacked anyone who stuck up for the accused murderers of Heather Elvis, a 20 year old girl who went missing in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, just 2 years earlier.
Sticking up for Sidney and Tammy Moorer or speaking out in opposition of Heather’s father, Terry Elvis, almost guaranteed that this group would relentlessly stalk and harass you and your family. Pedophile style trolling took place, photoshopping penis’ on the faces of the children of my clients. When it was discovered that I was investigating them, they even targeted my family, and my deceased stillborn daughter, Jade. The group resorted to tactics such as memorializing the profiles of those who spoke out against them by submitting fake obituaries to Facebook, issuing death threats, and one of their participants, Mary Peeples, a small, yet vindictive lady in her mid 40’s to early 50’s, even tried to abuse the legal system and take out a restraining order against me to impede my investigation, an order which was struck down Stokes County Courthouse in December of 2015.
Alexandria Goddard and Michelle Mckee are two of the bloggers behind the Steubenville Rape Case coverage from 2012-2013. Goddard had been featured on live television a few times, and her good friend Michelle spoke out against the convicted rapists, Trent Mays, and Ma’lik Richmond, as well as members of the school faculty who were eventually indicted on the cover-up. Up front, they seemed like honest advocates, and social media activists. Gradually the media attention faded, and the pair aligned themselves with other TrueCrime causes and various trolls on the social network, Twitter.
William Murtaugh of Florida, a now retired elderly gentleman, worked at STI Auto Sales during the time of the infamous Casey Anthony case, in which the mother of a deceased little girl was found not guilty of murder. He had a hobby in journalism and decided to convert one of his vans into a live-streaming reporting center to independently report on crime in the area on his blog.
“It was a major local case with unusual aspects. I also wanted to try out my new mobile streaming concept. I had a live truck come off lease and converted it into a mobile streaming van. At that time, other than mainstream media, I was one of less than a dozen people doing this nationally.
– I wanted to create an interactive webcast where the audience would decide, in real time, what they wanted me to show them. I also live streamed the early hearings when Casey was first indicted.”
Murt, as he is called, also operated a “live chat” where his audience could chat with him in real time, something unheard of in local reporting at that time. He claims that Alexandria Goddard and her followers would “troll” the chat in a “denial-of-service attack style”, relentlessly posting useless comments or accusing him of being a pedophile for his coverage of the case, with such frequency that others could not participate in the chat until usernames were banned.
He claims that Goddard would take the chat, post it into one of her many forums and alter the contents to her benefit while also creating “sock” or fake accounts to post under when one was banned.
“In Goddard’s case, it was the multiple posts of “MURT IS A PEDOPHILE”, with such frequency that it made it impossible for anyone to participate in the chat until the username was banned. She would then log in under another username and start the process all over again. She had members of Anonymous helping her with the attacks against me.“
This highlights an all-too-true aspect of the TrueCrime world. Divisions created between people fueled by a witch hunt mentality creates an obsessive and often vindictive personality. When the obsession turns into harassment, defamation, libel, or even cyber-stalking, it can become a crime and even result in jail time for the guilty party.
I too, was an activist of sorts, and when I took to defending Murt against his stalkers, Michelle Mckee, and Alexandria Goddard set their sights on me. Contributing to a defamatory blog, as true to their modus operandi, and devoting timelines and bandwidth to harassing me and my family. Once, they were the bloggers who spoke out for victims, and even had brought the Steubenville case to my attention, asking for my help in spreading the word, they now took to a darker side of twitter, one that has made many a person even commit suicide.
Teaming up with convicted felon and ex-Anonymous member turned federal informant, Thomas Olsen, Goddard as noted by her now locked twitter account, has contributed to multiple harassing posts in retaliation for my support of William Murtaugh, and another victim of theirs, Donna Fosnight.
Goddard, according to Donna, posted a defamatory post on “liarscheatersrus” regarding Donna. The post stated that Donna was attending grad school at Walsh University, falsely accusing her of releasing clients information and drug addiction. This led to Donna being kicked out of grad school. Donna, located in Canton Ohio, has retained legal counsel and is currently in the process of suing Goddard and her associates for a figure somewhere in the $100,000 mark.
Their relentless harassment of people like Donna and my family, including my deceased daughter, has warranted multiple civil and criminal legal actions against them, including civil restraining orders, and criminal summons’ with pending judgements.
The question remains, what drives these people’s obsessions? What motivates them to go from Social Justice Activism, to the criminal side of harassment and stalking?
Stalking affects people of all walks of life, from your local waitress, to an ex lover. From your favorite musician to your favorite actor/actress. The crime is serious, and the damage is real, and often long term. Sociopathic behavior, combined with obsession over a person, or cause, can cause people to react irrationally, and often illegally, ruining lives in the process. Vindictive behavior can take its toll on a victim, causing them job loss, mental anguish, and even thoughts of suicide.
“In 2006, psychologist Brian Spitzberg at San Diego State University conducted large-scale representative studies of stalking behavior across three continents. He reported that 2–13% of males and 8–32% of females are victimized by stalking at some point in their adult lives, and in the majority of such cases, the person is stalked by someone they know.”
Multiple states have enacted cyber-stalking laws to protect victims from such behavior. Little known, and often ignored by the aggressors, these laws offer legal remedy for victims seeking recourse for the actions of their attackers.
North Carolina’s statute makes it a criminal offense, punishable by jail time if convicted twice or more:
“§ 14-196.3. Cyberstalking.
(a) The following definitions apply in this section:
(1) Electronic communication. – Any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature, transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, computer, electromagnetic, photoelectric, or photo-optical system.
(2) Electronic mail. – The transmission of information or communication by the use of the Internet, a computer, a facsimile machine, a pager, a cellular telephone, a video recorder, or other electronic means sent to a person identified by a unique address or address number and received by that person.
(b) It is unlawful for a person to:
(1) Use in electronic mail or electronic communication any words or language threatening to inflict bodily harm to any person or to that person’s child, sibling, spouse, or dependent, or physical injury to the property of any person, or for the purpose of extorting money or other things of value from any person.
(2) Electronically mail or electronically communicate to another repeatedly, whether or not conversation ensues, for the purpose of abusing, annoying, threatening, terrifying, harassing, or embarrassing any person.
(3) Electronically mail or electronically communicate to another and to knowingly make any false statement concerning death, injury, illness, disfigurement, indecent conduct, or criminal conduct of the person electronically mailed or of any member of the person’s family or household with the intent to abuse, annoy, threaten, terrify, harass, or embarrass.
(4) Knowingly permit an electronic communication device under the person’s control to be used for any purpose prohibited by this section.
(c) Any offense under this section committed by the use of electronic mail or electronic communication may be deemed to have been committed where the electronic mail or electronic communication was originally sent, originally received in this State, or first viewed by any person in this State.
(d) Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.
(e) This section does not apply to any peaceable, nonviolent, or nonthreatening activity intended to express political views or to provide lawful information to others. This section shall not be construed to impair any constitutionally protected activity, including speech, protest, or assembly. (2000-125, s. 1; 2000-140, s. 91.)“
This law is a step in the right direction, and could possibly protect potential victims from taking drastic action such as retaliation or suicide. If more states realized that the internet is being abused in the guise of anonymity for purposes of harassment, we could set a defined barrier between what constitutes free speech, and what could be construed as a crime, protecting thousands of innocent lives every year.
Deric Lostutter is a social activist and investigative journalist living in North Carolina with his wife. He is currently engaged in multiple lawsuits against a growing list of people who have stalked and harassed him and his family for years, costing him employment, homes, and reputation.
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A portion of the proceeds raised and won will go to anti-bullying charities nationwide.
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