An American Crime


Trailer of An American Crime

Unable to sleep I came across the film An American Crime. I read the brief information provided and learned the stars were Catherine Keener and Ellen Page so I decided to watch. I had never heard of the production or the true story of Sylvia Likens (Page) and what was considered the most horrible documented crime on an individual in the history of Indianapolis.

I watched with a knot in my stomach that just kept twisting as the film became more macabre, vicious and frightening, it was almost unbelievable. Unfortunately what I was watching was true and extremely tame compared to the actual crimes perpetrated on Sylvia by Gertrude Baniszewski (Keener). The film inter-cut between the courtroom testimony of the other five children and Sylvia’s own sister who were being cared for by “Gertie.” What I saw was so difficult that this is not going to be a film review at this time, but my reaction.

As soon as the film was over I googled the story and found myself reading various newspaper and journal articles. I wanted an answer as to how this could happen? I also wanted to know what the value was in making such a horrific, terrifying film? Only one conclusion made sense and both stars echoed the sentiment that her story needed to be told. Perhaps because it is so disturbing, it may make someone do something if ever they suspect that abuse is going on. Finally to remind people that Sylvia is just one precious life struck down by cruel, mentally unfit adults, scared children and seriously flawed judgement by so many others who could have, with one word saved this girls life.

No one said a thing as screams emanated from that house. Children told parents who either did not believe it or somehow ignored it for whatever reason. And neighbors, who heard just stayed to themselves. This is the crime which boils my blood as much as the torture Sylvia endured and that is the stark reality with which people live.

Ellen Page’s performance is heartbreaking and I wonder how one might be mentally able to sustain work in such a role.  I can’t imagine it not being something that will haunt her on some level.  Keener, although played with restraint is demonic, depraved, desperate and cruel.  In reconciling whether to do the film (which she originally refused) she finally decided that as a mother she had to. 

While we were laughing it up and watching Juno, Page was making a film quite different, important and controversial.  This is not for everyone.  It is a true crime story played out in gruesome fashion.  Yet for the Sylvia’s who lived and died this way perhaps it should be seen and discussed. 

 Copyright ©2008 Veronica Romm

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Megan Meier: Internet hoax victim


Social networking and it’s pros and cons have been debated since the popularity of such sites as Myspace, Facebook and Twitter have increased and become part of the new Internet age. The Megan Meier’s story is particularly disturbing and has all the elements that are facilitating an adolescent epidemic of risk taking and poor judgment. To quickly sum up the Megan Meier’s story is difficult for there are many layers. It involves female friendships, parenting skills, MySpace, boys and very irresponsible adults.

Megan Meier
Megan Meier

Megan apparently had a falling out with her close friend and neighbor and this neighbors mom Lori Drew was concerned that Megan was going to say indecent things about her daughter. She quickly created a MySpace profile of a young handsome boy she named Josh Evans from a neighboring town, and started communicating with Megan in a flirtatious way. Megan had been dealing with self esteem issues along with every other adolescent, and found the attention of the young man exciting. He was cute and sweet and could really understand her. He told her she was pretty and wanted to be her boyfriend. She had no reason to think anything else was happening. Three weeks into the Internet relationship, he turned on Megan and said she was not the kind of person he wanted to associate with due to things he heard from kids at her school. She responded with shock, tears and hanging herself with a belt as her parents got ready for dinner downstairs.

It was quickly disclosed that the boy with whom Megan had bonded was really a collaborative effort of a family, initiated by the matriarch Mrs. Drew, and maintained by all. They explained that they started the profile on MySpace to protect their daughter from slanderous talk (never did Megan say a bad thing about her neighbor or anyone else). Since the rest of the neighborhood found out about the families twisted game, the Drew’s has complained of harassment on several occasions. To date there will be no charges found against the MySpace family hoax or any of the participants. A tragedy like this is unthinkable yet it is subtle, societal and scary.

Lori Drew
Lori Drew

Update:
Since the story broke I have been paying close attention to the outcome. The strong outcry from all over propelled the law to be reassessed. While the heinous acts of this adult became known across the nation, and indeed even the world, justice seemed to escape Megan Meier.

In May 2008, a federal grand jury in California defied Missouri officials’ refusal to prosecute the case. It indicted Lori Drew on charges of fraudulently using an account on MySpace. Finally, someone had the (courage) to FIND a law to fit the case. Someone finally figured out how to tell Lori Drew that what she did was wrong. Justice was coming, from California of all places!


Well now the verdict is in.

While jurors could not agree on the four charges brought by the federal indictment, they did find Lori Drew guilty of three misdemeanor offenses. This is not the victory we had hoped for. However, no longer will this adult walk away — completely unpunished for her actions. Kansascity.com

This story has been one that managed to be so disgraceful and kept my attention hoping that some sort of justice would be served.  Originally I feared that there would not be any charges brought against Lori Drew due to the tenuous nature of the crime.  I am pleased to know that the case appalled many and that there were lawyers willing to find any loophole to indict Drew.  Her behavior displays the absolute worst in people, callus and calculated Drew spun a web that led to a death.  Her irresponsible and reckless disregard for the feelings of a teenager, her malice and anti-social penchant for bullying is the worst example she could possibly set for  her own children.  God help her family and hopefully this will be a lesson for others who think the Internet is a means for abuse and bullying.

Please read The New Yorker piece on this story here.

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