Amanda Bennett and her three children were found dead in their home in the small town of Austin, Indiana Friday. For days, Bennett had posted about her marital problems on a local message board, much to the delight of readers.
The bodies of Bennett and her children, 14-year-old Jasmine, 9 year-old Katelynn and 4-year-old Ryan, were found on Friday in their house, which had been partially burned. The causes of death have been determined to be a combination of gunshot wounds and smoke inhalation; one neighbor told CNN Bennett shot her kids then herself.
This was the last of dozens of anguished posts in which Amanda Bennett detailed her ongoing divorce from her husband, John Bennett, using the handle "his wife." The messages were posted in a thread devoted to workplace gossip at Versatech, the factory where John worked.
Amanda started posting after catching John's coworkers dishing about an affair he was allegedly having with another coworker. On January 9th, user Employee wrote: "John Bennett and Jan [redacted] need to quit messing with each other they are both married and she is old." Other employees quickly weighed in. "Yes, they do," wrote Corn Fed. Mind Your Own Business took John's side, arguing that Amanda Bennett was a "psycho" and "what goes around comes around."
"Glad you all want in are buisness," Amanda wrote the next day. "So he been yelling all that I cheated that's a lie. We are still married and if he wants her old ass fine with me." A user named That Bitch Be Lying responded: "Liar. You cheated and you know it."
Things progressed about as you might expect from there. Amanda continued to make her case, viciously attacking Jan and John; and she continued to get piled on by haters—some clearly Versatech employees, others just random browsers. In one particularly prophetic message she wrote:
he will regret everything he is doing right now . Maybe not tomorrow but one dAy he said he didn't trust me and I didn't stray at all . How is he going to ever trust her .oh well I hope they both cAtch something
At every turn she was goaded on by other usres basking in the drama. Wrote Brewsta: "people laugh, people cry, people fight, and people die. Its the way of life and I love every minute of it! thank you topix....HAHA!"
The laughing stopped Friday. "I guess everyone knows by now that Amanda Bennett and her kids are dead," wrote Team Black, the first user to break the news. "I would think that the guilt felt by Jan, John, and all the people who made fun of her on here and called her names is very strong." Since then, debate has raged about how much blame the board's users should share.
At the time it seems they were driven by the natural instinct we all have to get in others' business. There's no way they could have forseen the future. But reading the thread now, one can't help but wonder, as one user did after the fact, "how things would have turned out if you would have offered a kind word or a word of encouragement to her."