Hate mail and mail in general

No, I haven’t gotten any since last week’s lawsuit threat, but for whatever reason I’ve been thinking about the nasty and/or bizarre letters I have gotten about Charley over the last six years. They don’t come terribly often, mind, and they are vastly outnumbered by the kind letters I get from people who appreciate my work.

Sometimes people are justifiably angry. One mother of a missing child was extremely angry because I said some things about her in the casefile, not good things, that were untrue. This wasn’t my fault — it was my source, a newspaper article, that was incorrect — but I certainly don’t blame her for being pissed off. She produced documents to show that I had been wrong. I apologized and changed the casefile, and she calmed down and even said she was sorry for being rude earlier. I didn’t blame her for being mad. If it had been me in her place, I would have been mad too. Another parent of a missing child was upset by what I’d written and actually contacted the NCMEC to ask me to remove a few sentences from the casefile. It wasn’t inaccurate information, I don’t think, felt like it made them look bad. I did remove it. It wasn’t essential to the missing boy’s story and his parents weren’t considered suspects in his disappearance. I felt kind of bad about hurting their feelings. Certainly it wasn’t my intention to try to make them look like bad parents. I did wonder why they felt the need to go through the NCMEC rather than straight to me, and told the NCMEC staff member who contacted me that perhaps the parent ought to just write to me directly. In any case, I never heard from them.

And some people might have reason to dispute me, but it seems to me that they are really overreacting. One young woman was practically frothing at the mouth, all capital letters and lawsuit threats etc., because she had run away once and then was found, and she didn’t want her resolved notice on my site. She said she felt like her privacy had been violated and she was embarrassed etc. I can understand that. I do feel a bit uneasy about posting resolved notices for runaways, since college admissions people and employers and so on can see them. But there’s no other way to let the reader know the person has been found. And you could argue — and I have before — that this kind of publicity is simply one of the consequences of running away. Also, even if I didn’t put up the notices, a lot of other sites will, so it’s not like my stopping would really help protect the runaway’s privacy very much.

Anyway, I removed her resolved notice and told her that, no, actually, I was not trying to ruin her life, and all she would have had to do was ask me politely to take it off. She shot back an email claiming she could still see the notice and demanding to know why I’d lied to her. Feeling rather weary by then, I replied suggesting she empty her cache or just reload the page. I didn’t hear from her again, thank goodness. With me, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I’ve had a few other people (not just family abductors) request resolved notices be removed. Some of them are MPs who were found and want their privacy, like the woman I was just talking about. In other cases it’s relatives of a deceased person and I guess they want fewer reminders of their dead loved one, or whatever. “Please remove his name and picture,” one woman wrote of her dead father. “OK,” I wrote back, “he’s gone.” End of story.

And then there are hate mailers who are just nuts. A particularly painful memory is of an email I got only a month or so after the Charley Project opened for business, so to speak. Someone claiming to be the wife of a missing man was furious at me (again, more capital letters) and made a few of personal insults and also accused me of copyright violation and exploiting the missing. Why? Because I had posted her husband’s case on my site without asking her permission. “I only gave my permission for him to be listed on two sites,” she wrote, “and your site was not one of those.” Um…why would a family member of an MP be angry at publicity about the MP’s disappearance? It wasn’t like I said anything bad about the MP or his wife in the casefile. I don’t recall that I had many details in there at all. You’d think the wife would want people to know about the disappearance so it could be solved. A few years later, she was quoted in a newspaper article about the case, which remains unsolved.

So I removed his casefile — though I didn’t like doing it — but the woman was apparently not done with me yet, and it seems she bad-mouthed me online to some other people involved in missing persons stuff. She claimed that I had said something to her that was “cruel and in poor taste.” This was a lie — I didn’t say ANYTHING to her but “I will remove the casefile. I didn’t mean to violate anyone’s copyright.” That was literally all I said. But as a result of the complaints from that woman about my supposed rudeness, a person with whom I had corresponded about MPs and who had occasionally sent me updates and information, wrote to me to tell me she didn’t want to know me anymore and wished she had never written to me in the first place. I was actually really hurt by the whole thing and very confused. I was, after all, just starting out, and the sheer vitriolic quality of the wife’s email to me and her later actions made me feel kind of sick and I wondered if I was doing something wrong and should shut down the site or what. Obviously, I didn’t do so. The feeling passed after a few days and I kind of shrugged it off.

Looking back, I’m not at all sure that that nasty emailer was really the missing man’s wife or had any connection to him at all. I wonder if someone (not saying who) just didn’t like me for some reason and didn’t want the Charley Project to exist, and sent me this really nasty email deliberately trying to get a rise out of me, hoping to provoke me into snapping back, so he/she could show my response to others and claim that I was a bad person who didn’t really care about MPs or their families. And then, when I failed to lower myself to her level, she made something up instead and told the false story to others. This is all just speculation on my part, of course, but it would explain a lot of things about that whole bizarre episode.

19 thoughts on “Hate mail and mail in general

  1. emma l December 13, 2010 / 6:40 am

    The last story made me cringe. Ughh. Why would someone do that? Internet anonymity eh?! Horrid.

    • Meaghan December 13, 2010 / 11:32 am

      Jealousy, perhaps.

      In a similar vein, one woman was upset that I wrote that her sister (who was pregnant and married, but separated from her husband) was seeing other men. She accused me of trying to make her sister look like a slut. Obviously this was not my intention. But I removed the information.

      Several months later, that same sister was quoted in a news article about the MP’s disappearance, saying the MP was seeing several men and she wasn’t sure who the father of her unborn child was. Makes me wonder why the sister got mad at me then, for saying far less.

  2. Kim Clark Esposito December 13, 2010 / 7:05 am

    Meghan,
    Your site is for information and sharing and that is a good thing. There is always going to be unkind, oppositional people to everything you and I ever write or talk about. That realization, whether it is good or not, is the way of the world. Ever since I found your site and started following it, only good things have come from doing so. My brother, John Clark has reunited with two of his three missing children and his ex wife, the abductor is facing extradition back to this country after 15 years. This Christmas, I have the good fortune of meeting them after 15 years. Your blog allowed my words to be posted and from that much anger and hate mail was thrown my way. It is a hard thing to take. BUT!!!!!! Remember, you are doing a good thing, with goodness and righteousness and in the end, no one can take that away from you. Keep your head up and keep walking through the angry crowd. In the long run, you will be(and already are) the better person for it!
    Have a great holiday and keep on posting….Kim Clark Esposito

    • forthelost December 13, 2010 / 2:55 pm

      Honestly, that’s the best Christmas present in the world.

  3. Lisa December 13, 2010 / 11:58 am

    Kim,

    I’m so happy to hear about your brother reuniting with his kids. I am the Lisa who wrote in support of you on your earlier post, and I have been wondering about you and your family.

    What a wonderful Christmas for your brother!

  4. Princess Shantae December 13, 2010 / 12:46 pm

    I don’t think you should take accurate info down just b/c somebody doesn’t like to have it out there. Your first responsibiltiy running the site is to the mp’s, and as long as what you post is not factual I don’t think you realy need to worry too much about unflattering things. If they send you proof that something you posted wasn’t true then yes take it off, but just b/c they don’t happen to like something their family member might of did is not a good enough reason to take it down, especially if they are rude about it.

    • Meaghan December 13, 2010 / 2:38 pm

      I kind of feel the same way, but it’s difficult to say no to family members who have already suffered so much. I can only remember one instance where I outright refused to remove something — in that case, it was a major part of the casefile, and well-known, and not acknowledging it would have been like having the proverbial elephant in the room.

  5. Kim Clark Esposito December 13, 2010 / 12:47 pm

    Lisa. Thanks for you kind words and your support. This has been a good fall for our family and we are so happy to be able to reignite a relationship with the children. Time does change things but in the end, its the love and support that means everything.
    There are pictures and more to come and my brother will be completing the topic with the Dr. Phil Show. That should air soon. They have been incredibly supportive and helpful.
    Take care and blessing to you this holiday.
    Kim

  6. Candice December 13, 2010 / 4:41 pm

    I doubt the person in the last story was even a relative-after sll, wouldn’t you want your family member to get the most publicity possible to encrease their chance of recovery?
    In any case, I applaud you for not closing the site all those years ago. You do a great thing…keep it up.

  7. Christine December 13, 2010 / 6:45 pm

    As always, I think you do a perfect job with this site. Even if there are some unflattering details of a MP’s life, the goal is to get their name out there and be found, not judged on their lifestyle.

  8. Kat December 13, 2010 / 9:23 pm

    People will always lash out in hurt. That’s the way it is and I am sure you are used to it by now. Now that you are older and wiser I’m sure you would contact a LE person and see if that was really the case…if she/he bitched to you, the would bitch to someone else if it was for real. I just said a bit ago….it’s odd you get so many threats…unless other sites don’t report them or ignore them. You keep doing what you are doing…obviously, you get a lot of respect and all of that is worth a bunch of losers. If it weren’t for you, I’d wonder about the mp state…..keep doing what you are!

    • Meaghan December 13, 2010 / 9:34 pm

      Well, most other MP sites don’t have a blog where the webmaster writes about their personal experiences and feelings running the site. Generally, I do tend to ignore the nasty emails. I just brought them up this time because for whatever reason I felt like writing about them. I think the MP world, and true crime in general, attracts a lot of nutters.

      Remember that schizophrenic lady I wrote about back in like June, who was sending me up to 30 emails a day that made no sense? The one I called the police about? She’s STILL writing to me.

  9. Princess Shantae December 13, 2010 / 9:36 pm

    I say its okay for somebody to be upset b/c their loved one is missing and maybe dead, and its okay that they correct you nicely if you get something wrong. But just b/c they’re hurting doesn’t mean they get a free pass to be rude or that they can demand things from somebody that’s trying to help them and throw fits if they don’t get what they want.

    • Meaghan December 13, 2010 / 9:39 pm

      Agreed. But welcome to the internet, a place where people don’t need an excuse to be assholes.

  10. Princess Shantae December 13, 2010 / 10:17 pm

    Not saying they won’t act bad, only saying they should not be rewarded for their bad behavior. Like if you have a little kid that you tell them no, you can’t have this or that, and they start screaming and kicking, you don’t give in and let them have what they wanted because all it does is teach them, if you don’t get your way by asking nicely, you can get it by acting like a jerk. Sometimes you can’t get your way, period, and that’s all there is to it.

  11. Vanessa December 14, 2010 / 5:29 am

    Well, at least you didn’t stoop to that woman’s level. Some people just need drama in their life, even if they have to get it on the WWW. They just need that soap opera action in any way in their lives

  12. Peter Henderson December 14, 2010 / 8:59 am

    Hi Meaghan,

    Unfortunately if you write about MP, the occasional nasty letter comes with the territory.

    Compared to the Charley Project my MySpace and Facebook sites are miniscule, but I have gotten one or two requests to remove a photo and case report. Both were resolved cases and the person requesting did so because they wanted to protect the missing person’s name. Despite the fact that just days before they were all over the news asking for the public’s help, they now wanted everyone to forget. I immediately did what they requested, and that was the end of it.

    The concept of posting when missing juveniles are recovered is controversial. Those who are apposed feel it’s a invasion of privacy. On the other hand how will the general public know if you don’t.

    I feel that not posting presents a far greater danger, one that is apparent in the comment sections of newspapers across the country. That danger is ignorance, and when it comes to missing people their comments prove that the vast majority are 100% clueless. In general American’s have no clue about the scope of the problem. Have no idea what happens to those teens labeled “runaways” while they are missing. If they did they would be outraged.

    If they really understood would they let cases like Cindy King, who has been missing since 7/19/77 from Grants Pass, Oregon stand as is?

    From a post of mine.

    Cindy’s case is different.

    Most of the time I post links to news reports, police department statements etc. But I can’t do that with Cindy!

    What I have posted above is all that is known, Cindy, who was just 15 and still wearing a dental retainer, vanished.

    Local news reports, if any, have long been lost. And the Grants Pass town website along with the local police and sheriff’s websites don’t mention the young hazel eyed girl, the girl still wearing her retainer, who once lived there; the girl called Cindy.

  13. Kat December 14, 2010 / 9:22 pm

    @ Peter…I am sorry for what you have to go thru too. Any way you slice it, for anyone that is working for resolution, that sucks. Bad. I guess there will always be people out for blood per say one way or the other. I didn’t want to bring this up, but Meaghan, did you ever think about doing what some other sites do, post the name and recovery date and not the pic if that what is setting ppl off? I like the pictures because i have a great memory, but not all the time with cases. Maybe it would take some of the pressure off… not that I would want you to cave or anything.

  14. Anonymous December 28, 2010 / 8:38 pm

    Meaghan,

    You can still remove the sensitive information that people who claim to be family members, feel needs to be removed for whatever reason and still protect the integrity of the missing person’s case. Simply create a policy that whenever someone claiming to be a relative ect. requests that information be removed from The Charley Project the LE responsible for the case needs to be notified about this ect. as a standard protocol. This way the police are aware of the actions by those involved, which may be harmless or what not, and someone who may not be a relative at all but claiming to be one, may actually be someone the police might want to take a closer look at that they might have been unaware of before. Not all criminals are smart. Many will gladly take advantage of your work. I think a protocol in place that respects the feelings of the MP’s family as well as a safety net for abuse of the MP needs to be in place. Because what if removing some information, ended up hurting the actual MP’s case (by a non legitimate family member let’s say) then in that instance a MP’s family would actually be being victimized again. I think as long as your polite, respectful, and a bit understanding of their situation even if they are a bit snappish ect. most MP’s families ultimately if you explained it would understand and appreciate a protocol, that would potentially protect their loved one,whom they are not able to protect momentarily, from being further exploited.

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