Earlier this week, a funny video went viral of 11-year-old Jessi Slaughter (AKA Kerligirl13) crying while her dad yelled at the people trolling her on the Internet. It's not so funny now that she's been placed under police protection.
More than 1.7 million people have seen the foul-mouthed Floridan's breakdown and laughed at her dad's luddite rage. But the video, "You Dun Goofed Up," wasn't the only thing to go viral: Jessi Slaughter's real name, address and phone number was distributed widely via Internet pranksters 4chan.org, Tumblr and other online backchannels. (Read the full back-story here.) We spoke with Jessi's mother, Dianne Leonhardt, on the phone today. She tells us the family has received a slew harassing phone calls since the video went viral Thursday.
According to Leonhardt, some of those phone calls have been death threats, and the local sheriff's department has launched a criminal investigation into the video. Jessi was placed under police protection and brought to a safe house soon after it went viral. She came home today, but she's not online: A court order has barred her from using the Internet for at least three days.
So far, things haven't escalated past phone calls and online vandalism of Jessi's social-networking accounts. But Leonhardt says the family's life has been completely upended by a stream of prank calls." I've had people calling, impersonating themselves as cops, as child protection services," she says. Though Leonhardt says Child Protection Services is in fact involved in the case. "Something we never wanted!" Leonhardt's husband shouted from somewhere in the room when she told us this over the phone.
Leonhardt says the family is under "24/7 police surveillance" but still doesn't feel safe knowing that anyone on the Internet could have their home address. "We've had may, many death threats," she says. "We're afraid to leave the house. We're afraid to go to bed. We're sleeping in shifts, my husband and I am." Above all, Leonhardt says, "I wan't my life back. I want my daughter's life back."
Pre-teen or not, Jessi isn't an entirely passive player in this. The freakout in "You Dun Goofed" was over harassment sparked by one of Jessi's earlier videos that had also gone viral, to a lesser extent: An astonishingly profane rant in which Jessi tells Internet haters to "suck my non-existent penis" and "Get AIDS and die" and hurls epithets no 11-year-old should know.
What does her mother think of it?
"I haven't seen it," she says. "I don't even go on the computer."
Update: A spokeswoman for the Marion County, Florida sheriff's department confirms that they are investigating a case regarding an 11-year-old girl with details that closely matches Jessi Slaughter's story. However, the Sheriff's office says that they're only investigating allegations that there are pornographic photos of her online. "Basically we're just investigating if these pictures do actually exist," the spokeswoman says. They're also looking into prank calls to Jessi's house that have referenced the alleged photos.
And the death threats Jessi's mom told us about? "There have been no death threats or threats of harm in any way" towards Jessi, according to the spokeswoman.
We've personally seen provocative images splashed on 4chan's /b/ message board for users to mock—some that might even border on child porn. Users have also repeatedly mentioned nude pictures of Jessi, though who knows if that's legit since 4chan users are completely anonymous and will say anything to shock.