"Just to let everyone know, my mother was murdered."
This simple yet startling sentence marks the last entry Rachelle Waterman made in her Internet journal before she was arrested on charges she participated in killing her mother. And it marks the beginning of an online discussion that's as remarkable for its popularity as its content.
Waterman is the 16-year-old high school honor student from Craig jailed with two 24-year-old men who troopers say schemed for months to kill 48-year-old Lauri Waterman.
Waterman started her diary on LiveJournal.com in September of last year, and anyone with Internet access can read the 100-plus entries she's written.
She made her final entry Nov. 18, the Thursday after she spent the weekend in Anchorage playing in the state volleyball tournament. While she was at the tournament, police say, her two accomplices killed her mother.
The Nov. 18 entry includes two more sentences by Waterman explaining she won't be online for a while, because police seized her computer.
For several days, the Web site was quiet. Then came stories about Waterman's arrest and arraignment, some of which mentioned the journal. Since then, it's become a hot spot.
On Wednesday, the day of the arraignment, 11 readers had commented on Waterman's final entry. By midday Friday, the number was up to 256. Twenty-four hours later, it was over 1,600.
Most seem to be written by teens and young adults. Many are glib, some are heartfelt, a few are disturbing and a number are obscene.
Taken together, they create a fascinating peephole into a world where lock-and-key diaries have been replaced by journals written for the whole planet to read and respond to, a world where voyeurism has been compounded by participation.
This is a no-filter, no-editors world where people speak their mind in sometimes profane outbursts. Sometimes, they don't really have all that much to say, but feel compelled to comment anyway, like a poster named Newton. His or her contribution: "Posting in a legendary journal entry.''
That's it. Newton just wanted to log on and leave his mark on a thread some are calling "legendary.''
For people like Newton, there must be a thrill in feeling like you're part of a sensational story. Close to a thousand people gathered outside the courthouse the day of the verdict in the Scott Peterson murder trial in California, where they cheered the jurors who found Peterson guilty of killing his wife and unborn child and jeered the Peterson family.
Some waited there for hours, and for what? To get close to people in the news, to feel part of a story, to speak their mind about it.
So it is with Newton and some of the others who have left messages on Waterman's live journal site. A poster named mr. twisty had this to say: "An LJ killer! Cool as f---.''
For all of the mr. twisty's out there, however, there are people making comments on the journal because they have ties to Waterman, her family or her town. It can't be easy for them to read messages from people who think it's cool to comment on journal entries written by a murder suspect.
One poster goes by the name "usanightmare,'' who once lived in Craig, according to a posting. As the comments kept pouring in, he or she was feeling cynical about how the journal had turned into a free-for-all:
" 'Posting In A Legendary Thread'? This isn't a legend, its a sad tragedy, because this is a no win situation for all involved. How many people posting in this thread actually knew the people involved directly? Now that this has become some sort of "internet legend", people who have nothing at all to do with the family, the city, even the state are posting because its amusing to them. ...''
It's one thing to read Rachelle Waterman's journal thinking you may gain some insight as to why she may have done what police say she did. Some may see clues when Waterman complains that she was grounded for scoring an 89 on a test or that her mom wanted to send her to a fat farm.
Some may see red flags when they read a poem called "Ode to Suicide.'' Some may be alarmed by information in her user profile, in which she lists her hometown as "Hell, Alaska, United States,'' or by the name of her journal, which is "My Crappy Life -- The Inside Look of an Insane Life.''
But many of the thoughts and words found in Waterman's journal aren't terribly different from the thoughts and words of other teenagers.
Until you read that final entry.
Edited by Mr Stabby, 07 December 2004 - 12:15 AM.