Afterward, she began receiving death threats, and her phone number and home address were posted online. She and her father then made the following video [Warning: Explicit language -- NSFW]:
These controversial videos have already been viewed by more than a million people -- and have even landed Jessica in police protective custody. Jessica's mom, Dianne, speaks exclusively to momlogic.
momlogic: How did all of this Internet drama start?
Dianne Leonhardt: On Thursday evening, it all started. I got a phone call from a guy [representing] himself as a police officer and inquiring about an alleged missing person -- a kid -- who knew or was associated with my daughter. I asked for the missing kid's name and my daughter said she didn't even know who he was. Something didn't seem right; the call seemed weird. So I asked the "officer" what the police chief's name was, and he hung up. The phone rang again, and I told the guy that if he was a real police officer to send a unit to my door. My daughter became more upset because someone had posted a photo of her over the Internet using her head with someone else's body. My daughter was sitting by the computer, and that's the video where my husband was screaming for all of this to stop. We shut the computer down and we were very upset.
ml: When did the actual police get involved?
DL: We all went to bed that night, and then at 1:15 AM, my doorbell rang. Our dog started barking and we heard bam, bam, bam ... someone was banging on our door. It was the Marion County Sheriff's Department. An officer said an anonymous tip had come in that our daughter was hurting herself. He wouldn't tell us who called the tip in, but he made me wake my daughter up to make sure she was OK. The officer was really rude and my daughter kept denying that she made any videos. She kept saying, "I didn't do any of this!" He was here for about 15 minutes.
The next morning, my husband and I were sitting in our home when the doorbell rang again. Another sheriff's department officer was banging on the door. This time, they had another anonymous tip from someone in California claiming my daughter had female prostitutes coming in and out of our home from ads posted on Craigslist. Again, my daughter denied making any of these videos. In the meantime, my mother-in-law called from Michigan, saying she'd gotten a message on Facebook from a man who sent a photo of my daughter with some other guy. I have no idea how they even found her on Facebook! I put the officer on the phone with her and he took down the information. I then went onto my Facebook page and the same guy had sent me a message, too.
After the officer left, I had messages on my voice mail from a man asking me for sex. The guy left his name and number. I also received a death threat on my voice mail, so we called the police back. It was from a bogus number, so they couldn't trace it. The same number has been calling for the last two days, all day and night. We believe it's the same person.
ml: Were you aware that your daughter had been making and posting these videos online?
DL: Jessica has a webcam and a computer. All of her friends have webcams, too, so they video chat with each other. I knew she'd made a video to apply for "America's Got Talent." She sings and sent an audition video in. I had no idea she was making other videos. I have seen her chatting with her friends, but not making videos.
ml: When did you find out about the videos, and what was your reaction?
DL: The officers had said there were videos, but Jess denied making them. Then my mother-in-law called and said there were videos. But I haven't watched them. I can't be in the room 24/7. We tried to talk to Jess last night, but she got very upset all over again. I am trying to get her back to normal. It's taken a very emotional toll on her. I don't know if she made these videos or not, but she says she didn't. Right now, I am trying to figure out what's real and what's not. This has been very difficult to deal with.
ml: Is it true that your daughter was taken into protective police custody?
DL: Yes. On Friday afternoon around 2:45 PM, another deputy and a DCF officer showed up at my door. The DCF agent was saying my daughter was making all these videos online. I never saw any videos and I didn't even want to turn on the computer. I wanted to leave it alone, but they were hammering my daughter. They didn't talk to her, they were talking at her. They were blaming her, saying, "You did this!" She was denying making the videos. I haven't watched the videos, and I don't want my daughter back online. I don't want to make her all upset again. After all that, DCF took Jess on Friday and put her in protective custody at a center. She came back yesterday. I am so angry about how she was treated. I went to visit her on Saturday, and she just wanted to go home. These kids have to get up at 7:00 AM, have breakfast and do schoolwork. There is no TV for them, and nothing else to do. From 1 to 2 PM, you can have visitors, so I went to see her. If you have no visitors, they tell you to take a nap. I couldn't return that evening for visitation, so they allowed her to make a five-minute call to me. She said she was bored and just staring at the walls. After three minutes, they rushed her off the phone.
ml: Do you have any idea how many people have watched these videos of your daughter online? Some of the videos have more than a million views! Do you realize the magnitude of this situation?
DL: I heard there were over a million views online of people looking at these videos. My phone has been ringing nonstop. I have let my phone go to voice mail, and people are calling and leaving crazy messages. A car company called because [someone] used [Jessi's] name requesting information on a vehicle. Domino's Pizza called because [someone] used her name to order hundreds of pizzas online. Pizza Hut called confirming an order for more than $1,000 worth of pizza; a girl left a message on our voice mail saying, "Hope you're enjoying the pizza." Now I am hearing [that] people are saying online that Jessi killed herself! She's an 11-year-old girl! We're trying to figure out what she posted and what she didn't -- what's real and what's not. We've received many threats. This is out of control. People think this is funny, but they don't realize the damage they're doing.
ml: Why do you think this happened to your daughter and family?
DL: Jessica helps a person write song lyrics. He's in a band, and people are jealous because she knows him and they became friends. She's been to one of his concerts and they've become friends. My daughter is a really friendly person and she chats online with people. She has also been bullied and picked on at school by a boy and two girls. The two girls got in trouble and they were suspended for three days after bullying her. Towards the end of the school year, Jess was suspended for 10 days after being accused of slapping a boy in the face and bruising him. She says she didn't do it and that the boy was sitting at a lunch table talking about how he got bruised after his brother hit him in the face with a softball. Every time something happens, there are no teachers or security guards at the school and Jessica gets in trouble.
ml: As a mother, what have you learned from all of this?
DL: I am still trying to take this all in. I can't believe this is happening. My daughter is an only child -- she was our miracle child, because I had cervical cancer and was told I couldn't have children. Then, on two years to the date of my recovery, I wasn't feeling well and found out I was pregnant. I can't be in the same room with her 24/7 and I am trying to explain to her what's going on. It's been very difficult because I don't understand what's going on -- I don't even know what these videos show and I don't want to view them. I am upset enough. I have been throwing up and I haven't been able to eat or sleep since this all started last week.
ml: What message do you have for other moms?
DL: Communicate with your child, try and watch them and try and believe what your child is saying to you. Give your child the benefit of the doubt, because nobody else will. And talk to your child about cyberbullying and about how bad it's going to hurt another person. They don't know or understand the dwindling-down effect of what they've created.