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First Came the Murders, Then the Online Trolls

Frank Rzucek, father of Shannan Watts, urges social media sites to combat online abuse
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 23, 2019 1:06 PM CDT
In this Aug. 16, 2018 file photo, a photograph sits amid mementos outside the home where a pregnant woman, Shanann Watts, and her two daughters, Bella and Celeste, lived in Frederick, Colo.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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(Newser) – The family of a pregnant Colorado mother who was murdered along with her two young daughters say they've been subject to "a constant stream of ugly, evil insults and attacks" over the last 11 months. "To online social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter—we have contacted you many times reporting this abuse, but to no avail," says Frank Rzucek, father of Shannan Watts, per NBC News. "We are calling on you again to do the right thing, to take some responsibility for your platforms and to stop this despicable conduct." Rzucek describes people showing up to his home to harass the family, which has also received "threats on our lives" since the August killings. Shannan's husband and the girls' father, Chris Watts, is serving three consecutive life sentences after admitting to killing his family.

However, Watts initially claimed to have killed his wife only after she smothered the children. In a prison interview earlier this year, he said police had first suggested that theory. But Rzucek's lawyer tells KUSA that people are still "claiming Shannan was responsible for this or her brother is on drugs or something." Rzucek says the family has encountered "wild false allegations" and "hate speech," while Shannan and daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, "have been ridiculed, demeaned, slandered and mocked, in the most vicious ways you can imagine." He's now calling on Congress to pass laws against cyberbullying. "To the people who feel they are entitled to profit off of our loss, we urge you, please stop," he adds. "And to the people who are interested in this case, who feel compelled to comment and discuss, please, stick to the truth." (Read more Colorado stories.)

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