DARDENNE PRAIRIE, Mo. - Waterford Crystal Drive is one of those suburban streets that seem so new as to have no history at all. But the suicide of a teenage girl - and allegations that she had been tormented by a neighbor over the Internet - have brought a reaction that is old and almost tribal in its nature.
Residents of the middle-class subdivision have turned against the neighbor, Lori Drew, and her family, demanding that the Drews move out. In interviews, they have warned darkly that someone might be tempted to "take matters into their own hands."
"It's like they used to do in the 1700s and 1800s. If you wronged a community, you were basically shunned. That's basically what happened to her," said Trever Buckles, 40, who lives next door to the Drews.
Drew became an outcast after she admitted inventing Josh Evans, a good-looking teenage boy who chatted online with 13-year-old Megan Meier. Megan received cruel messages from Josh that apparently drove her to hang herself in her closet in 2006.
Through her lawyer, Drew, a mother of two, has denied saying hurtful things to the girl over the Internet, and prosecutors have said they found no grounds for charges against the woman. Nevertheless, the community reaction has been vengeful and the pressure on the Drews intense.
Last December, after neighbors learned of the Internet hoax, someone threw a brick through a window in the Drew home. A few weeks ago, someone made a prank call to police reporting that there had been a shooting inside the Drews' house, prompting squad cars to arrive with sirens flashing.
Clients have fled from Drew's home-based advertising business, so she had to close it.
Death threats and ugly insults have been hurled at Drew over the Internet, where she has been portrayed as a monster who should go to prison, lose custody of her children, or worse.
The Drews - Lori, husband Curt, and two children - live in a one-story ranch and used to fit in just fine, said John McIntyre, who described Lori Drew as an intensely social woman who never hesitated to stop and talk.
McIntyre fondly remembered another guest - Megan. She came to baby-sit McIntyre's 4-year-old daughter. "She was a good kid," McIntyre said.
Megan became friends with the Drews' young daughter and the girls remained close for years, according to a report provided by prosecutors. But the girls had a falling-out in 2006. Lori Drew and an employee, referred to only as a teenager named Ashley in the report, created a fake MySpace page so they could monitor what Megan was saying online about Drew's daughter, the report said.
Ashley sent Megan most of the messages from "Josh," and Lori Drew was aware of them, prosecutors said. On Oct. 16, 2006, there was a heated online exchange between Megan and Ashley, who was posing as Josh. It ended when Josh said the world would be better off without Megan.
Tina Meier said her daughter went to her room, crying and upset. About 20 minutes later, she was found hanging from a belt tied around her neck.