EDMONTON -- Cyber-harassment and online torment isn't only for teenagers.
Just ask Sarah, a single mother who lives in fear that misguided vigilantes might harm her or her adopted son, thanks to a Facebook group where she's accused of complicity in the 2005 death of a 13-month-old foster child in her care.
Her then-common-law husband pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the killing. Sarah was at work at the time and has never been accused of any wrongdoing.
But on Facebook, Sarah (whose real name can't be used here because it's against the law) is called a "flat-faced f...ker" and that she should "die a painful death."
Sarah, the dead boy and her ex-husband are all clearly identified in the group, an obvious violation of provincial child-protection laws.
The 160-member Facebook group, which was started last month, can't be identified here because it's named after the dead boy. Its stated aim is to stop child murderers, but how the group is supposed to do that is not explained.
Many of the members seem to sign up and vent about how much child abuse sickens them, but little else. Onemember muses, "hopefully 1 day we can put a stop 2 these creeps ... by taking the law into our own hands."
Sarah's is the only specific case discussed.
One relative of Sarah's dead foster son appears to direct her rage right at Sarah: "I need no gun. I need no help, but if you want to join let's go. I have had it. I know where this creep is and you know who you are. Now you can abuse someone your own size, you flat-faced f...ker."
Many of the postings are from the dead boy's biological mother.
"Sure (Sarah) was not there when (my son) had died but I know that she knew what was going on (in) her home," the mother writes.
She also writes: "This group was put together to keep child murderers and predators away and in my eyes when you talk or even have something to do with that person ... and know what they have done, you're just as sick as they are."
The Facebook group is just one more nightmare piled onto an already overflowing heap of misery for Sarah.
"People who join the group not knowing anything about the situation are being told things that aren't true," she says. "They're saying (the foster son) was perfectly healthy when he came to us. They said he lost a third of his body weight in the months he was with us.
"None of that is true."
"That was several days ago, and I haven't heard back," Sarah said.
Sarah reported it to the police, who she said are investigating.
Last week the boy's biological mother showed up at Sarah's work with another woman, pointed to Sarah and left. Her bosses told her take some time off until this gets sorted out.
Sarah's now considering trying to get a court order to shut down the group.
"This nightmare just won't end," she said.
Sarah and her common-law husband were already caring for the boy's two siblings (one of whom she had adopted) when he was placed in her care in the fall of 2005.
On Nov. 25, he died in hospital, apparently the victim of violent shaking. The husband was sentenced to five years and is now living in an Edmonton halfway house.
Even though Sarah wasn't home at the time and has never been accused of any wrongdoing, she had to fight for months to get her adopted son back.
"Our lives were destroyed," she said.
Her ex has never said what happened the day the boy died, and she didn't attend the funeral because his biological family would be there.
"I've never had closure."
Children and Youth Services spokesman Trevor Coloumbe said there have been "two or three" cases in the past where their privacy laws have been violated on social networking websites, but in each case government authorities have contacted the administrators and they've shut down the offending pages immediately.