Soldier's widow, others speak out after photos 'hijacked' online
Posted April 23, 2012
Updated April 24, 2012
Fayetteville, N.C. — After losing her husband in Iraq in 2003, only 22 days before he was scheduled to come home, Fayetteville widow Theresa Morehead turned to Facebook to help keep his memory alive. She later learned that an impostor was using her husband’s photo to gain a woman's affection and sympathy.
Morehead was one of several people who contacted WRAL News about loved ones' photos being used inappropriately online after seeing WRAL's Feb. 2 story about Lydia Lange, who says someone copied her photos and posted them online under the name “Jenny.”
In Morehead's case, she says a man using the name James Duane tried to pass off her husband's picture as his own on Facebook and Myspace. A career Special Forces soldier, Master Sgt. Kevin Morehead shook hands with the president, was honored for his service with a Silver Star and Purple Heart and has a camp in Afghanistan that bears his name.
“I’m pretty sure that he went to Kevin’s memorial site on Facebook and hijacked the picture,” Theresa Morehead said. “And then, to claim you’re a Marine. Really? Where is your … you have no class. Just disgusting.”
Theresa Morehead said she learned that her husband’s photo was being used inappropriately when a woman contacted her and said she had an online relationship with a man who was using the photo.
The woman, who asked WRAL News not to identify her for safety reasons, said she started an online relationship with the man who called himself James Duane. When she asked for pictures, he kept sending her the same one – Kevin Morehead’s photo – she said.
“Then, I happened to look at the file name and saw it was called ‘MoreheadKevin.jpg,’” she said.
The woman says she searched the name on the Internet, found the fallen war hero’s memorial page and contacted his widow right away. The woman says she feels betrayed and says the man has since threatened her.
“(I used to be) worried about him, because he said he would be going out on missions, and he wasn’t sure if he’d be coming back,” the woman said. “And so, I’d be praying for him, like an idiot, and worrying about him, and, you know, he’s probably just sitting in his basement somewhere.”
Theresa Morehead says she contacted Myspace, which took her husband's picture down right away after she proved someone was misusing it. She did not have the same luck with Facebook, which says it works with law enforcement and it has an extensive section on safety on its site.
“I was appalled that they would actually let somebody do that,” she said. “I mean, why don’t you zap their site right away?”
Morehead says she finally got the man to take down the picture after repeatedly writing to him.
Rhonda Eiesland, of Raleigh, shares that frustration. She spent eight months trying to get pictures of her two teenage daughters off a Facebook page promoting prostitution.
“They were basically calling her white trash (and saying) that she would do a lot of this sexual stuff,” Eiesland said.
A caption under Carissa Eiesland’s photo said the 17-year-old “gets down and DIRTY (if you know what I mean).” A caption under 15-year-old Shaniah Eiesland’s photo said, “Hit me up if you want to talk.”
“I was upset, because I don’t want people to think horrible things about me and look at me in the wrong way,” Shaniah said.
Rhonda Eiesland says she went to Raleigh police last June to file a report on her daughters’ behalf.
“I was very upset, very upset,” she said. “(The police) basically told me that there was nothing that they could do.”
The angry mother didn't stop there. She started doing research on her own and found a statute on cyber-bullying. She says she believes girls at her daughters' school took their attacks to Facebook, prompting Raleigh police to open an investigation.
“Even though it’s public and on the Web for anyone to see, it still doesn’t give anyone the right to take their pictures and use them,” Rhonda Eiesland said.
Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue said police have been gathering information in the case, but they "have not developed sufficient probable cause to obtain an arrest warrant."
Beverly Huggins contacted WRAL News about "a problem that won't go away" involving pictures of her 18-year-old daughter, Victoria Huggins, who was an American Idol contestant in 2011.
"We have contacted Facebook about (7) impersonator accounts, some which post pornographic pics profiling Victoria," Beverly Huggins wrote in an email to WRAL News on March 20. "We have contacted Facebook repeatedly to close accounts providing proof of identity."
Impostors pulled pictures of Victoria off her ministry website, VictoriaHuggins.net, which is the only website she has, according to her mother.
"Please help us. This has been emotionally upsetting to Victoria as well as is a fraudulent matter unfair to the public who think they're posting to a legitimate account," Beverly Huggins wrote.
Lisa Naser, a teaching assistant at Sterling Montessori Academy and Charter School in Morrisville, also contacted WRAL News and said she was confused for one of her co-workers, who is accused in a murder-for-hire plot in the Triangle terrorism case. Someone posted Naser's picture under Nevine Aly Elshiekh's name on a pro-Elshiekh blog.
"This organization went to my work website, found a picture that fit a description similar to Nevine and copied my picture onto their website," Naser wrote. "I was floored and angry to say the least. I have co-workers joking and parents asking questions."
Naser says she posted a comment on the blog, telling the owner to take down her picture. Several hours later, her comment was gone, she said, but the picture remained up for another week.
"I did talk with an agent in the Charlotte FBI office that looked into this, and he told me that since there was no criminal law broken he could not do anything, but he did suggest I that I had a civil case in regard to slander," Naser wrote.
If an image is being misused online, the North Carolina Department of Justice encourages people to report it to the site in question.
"If they fear for their safety or feel threatened, they should contact local law enforcement," said DOJ spokeswoman Noelle Talley. "Images that constitute child pornography should, of course, be reported to law enforcement or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Cyber tipline."