We Are Living In a Virtual World…

…and some of us are virtual people. From the Daily Mail comes a story of 21st Century romance gone wrong:

The chance encounter online between a gorgeous young 18-year-old girl named Jessi and a handsome 18-year-old marine called Thomas Montgomery seemed on the surface to be innocent enough.

However, what Jessi, whose online name was Tallhotblonde, didn’t know was that her ‘sweet sexy Marine’ was actually a 46-year-old married father of two from Clarence, in upstate New York. …

Giving himself the moniker ‘MarineSniper’, Montgomery told ‘Jessi’ that he was a young, handsome Iraq-bound Marine, while she claimed to be a softball-playing high school senior from West Virignia.

Here is the real “teenaged Marine sniper:”

Those who are familiar with Brad Paisley’s “I’m So Much Cooler Online” will recognize the phenomenon. But now the virtual romance turned into a love triangle, with tragic consequences. Jessi (Tallhotblonde) found out about Montgomery’s ruse when Montgomery’s wife discovered her husband’s online flirtation and sent Jessi a photograph of the real, 46-year-old Thomas Montgomery with his family. Jessi was incensed, and began flirting online with a 22-year-old co-worker of Montgomery’s named Brian Barrett. For some reason not clear to me, all three hung out in the same chat room, so that Jessi’s new romance was visible to the now-humiliated Montgomery, who was acquainted with Barrett. Montgomery couldn’t bear it:

Montgomery found out about this, became incensed and on September 15, 2006, drove to meet Barrett as he left where they both worked and shot him three times, killing him.

That brought the police into the picture. They went to see Jessi (Tallhotblonde) and found that she was–so to speak–an immaterial girl:

As police responded to the murder, they quickly uncovered the internet love-triangle and when they couldn’t find Montgomery, rushed to ‘Jessi’.

However, when police arrived at her door they were presented with 45-year-old Mary Shieler.

Telling her what had happened and how they desperately needed to speak to Jessi, Shieler broke down in a wail of tears and confessed her whole elaborate deception of Montgomery and Barrett.

Upon questioning her, they discovered that Jessi was in fact her daughter and the pictures and underwear she had been sending belonged to her 18-year-old [who knew nothing of her mother’s imaginary romances].

The story is actually more lurid than my brief summary; you can follow the link above for more details. Or you can wait for the Lifetime movie, which apparently will be coming out soon.

In Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov wrote brilliantly, and mostly comically, about a tragic collision between reality and delusion that culminated in the death of a poet. One can only wonder what Nabokov might have done with the internet age.

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