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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Mom Defends 11-Year-Old YouTube Sensation Jessi Slaughter

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Eleven-year-old Jessica Leonhardt of Florida (who goes by "Jessi Slaughter" and "Kerligirl13" online) recently posted the following video on YouTube [Warning: Explicit language -- NSFW]:

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.

next: Teens School Jessi Slaughter (and Her Parents!) via YouTube
480 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anon July 19, 2010, 2:15 PM

Too late. Shes already a meme.

Kelly July 19, 2010, 2:19 PM

The mom says,”Give your child the benefit of the doubt.” Then she doesn’t even look at the videos. She’s more concerned about not upsetting her daughter than holding her responsible for her behavior. Uh…what’s wrong with this picture? I’ve got 2 teens, and I know that’s nutty! Sticking one’s head in the sand is not responsible parenting. Nor is it doing her daughter any favors, as we can all see the mess she’s in now.

A different angry dad July 19, 2010, 2:20 PM

It is the PARENTS fault not anyone else. PARENTS need to control their children. We have 2 computers one Locked in our room and one in the family room for the children the family computer is monitored. All information is logged to my computer I can remote in to the computer at any time from anywhere to see what is happening if one of my children disobeys the rules for the computer they lose the right to use the computer. Parents need to stop blaming everyone else when their child does something wrong take responsibility or don’t have children.

Hairdresser July 19, 2010, 2:23 PM

I just LOVE what you did to your hair, Jessi. I *LOVE* how you arrange them in order to look cute while you cry. This hair is the next fad, I’m telling you! I’ll call it “Jessi’s Tears”, we’re going to make so much money…

How can the mother turn a blind eye like this??? Unbelieveable!

Danielle Huerta July 19, 2010, 2:35 PM

My lord, someone needs to make that woman watch those videos. Seriously, What in the hell is wrong with her? She is in denial that her daughter is a big headed brat with a huge ego. I wouldn’t let my daughter befriend Dahive Vanity much less let my 11 year old go to one of his concerts and listen to his music. See this is what happens when uneducated people bare children. It’s so SAD. Someone needs to show her all those comments Jess made about having sex and eating girls out. Her daughter is disgusting and a liar. She has the balls to post videos and act older she needs to have the balls to fess up to what she did. SOMEONE send her mother those videos please.

Stanley July 19, 2010, 2:35 PM

There are several things I don’t understand, but more than anything, what was the reason for being taken into custody? Sorry, but free speech is free speech and that police department just completely violated this family’s constitutional rights. There’s nothing showing this child was in any danger and really any different than other kids her age. She posted some videos to YouTube saying really dumb stuff? SHOCKER!!!

Second, I assume that every other parent on this board currently has top of the line parental control software on their computers at home and on their kids’ phones, right? Because otherwise no one really has any room to talk. Your kids could be doing the exact same thing right now and you would be just as clueless as this mom.

Really there is nothing to be shocked about here at all: this type of non-parenting when it comes to the Internet is absolutely typical of what goes on in this country, and parents simply use the all-too-convenient excuse of techno-ignorance and throw their hands up in despair. Meanwhile their impressionable, emotionally-charged, confused kids are left to fend for themselves in an environment the likes of which this world has never seen. My only hope is that someday soon this type of negligence is shocking. I work in the online safety industry and this type of thing is not only commonplace, its incredibly mild compared to what happens to other kids on a daily basis.

#gF$V( July 19, 2010, 2:44 PM

Everyone here seems to be blaming Jessica and her parents, but not the numerous amount of people who harassed an eleven-year-old and ruined her life.

I made a report to her police department, but it was because of the harassment she was receiving. Now it looks like the police and child custody gestapo are out to worsen Jessica’s situation and really drive her to suicide. Now the police are investigating to see if any nude photos of Jessica exist as rumored by her harassers, so I guess they can turn an 11-year-old into a sex offender.

I hope hundreds of them go to jail who harassed this girl. I hope is closed by the FBI. Nothing educational occurs there, it’s just constant child pornography and schemes perpetrated by low IQ sociopath mobs to harass children into committing suicide.

Denise July 19, 2010, 2:59 PM

It’s just rather unfortunate that this mom is clueless. Um, your daughter is far from an angel…if I had talked like she does at 11, I’d been spanked and grounded (and yes I was still spanked at that age.) Not to mention the clothes…holy jeez.

This Jessi needs help and her parents need to get a clue.

It’s just all so sad.

nicole July 19, 2010, 3:08 PM

The reason she was taken into custody is because of the death threats the family received.

Pleon July 19, 2010, 3:28 PM

Mom??? Watch the videos and see what you’ve raised. HOW could you let an 11 year old have a webcam in their room? You’ve created it. Now deal with it or keep you head in the sand and we’ll deal with your snarky, obsence kid.

Bob July 19, 2010, 3:30 PM

Perhaps someone should inform this clueless woman that the typical “lyrics” of the band she’s supposedly helping write include lines like “I’ll f*** you in the face. And leave a nice taste. A hot mess. That’s what’s up!”

James F. July 19, 2010, 3:32 PM

I cant watch my kids 24/7 on the computer hence they are NOT on the computer 24/7. If they cant be supervised they shouldnt be online. Parents who blame everyone else for their kids issues are bad parents.

Angel July 19, 2010, 3:56 PM

#1 Supervision is key to raising a healthy and happy child/teen. #2 You can’t blame others for your child’s behavior. #3 Communicate with your child, set rules, set limits, and stick to them. #4 NEVER put a computer with internet access in a closed room even if you are using parental control software. Monitoring is so important. #5 Don’t ever think that it can’t happy to your child because you can’t be any further from the truth. These days children know more than the parents when it comes to electronics. Parents need to educate themselves when it comes to computers, cell phones, and the internet. #6 A child’s safety starts at home. There are no do-overs when it comes to parenting. We only get one time to get it right. Teach your children to be responsible and respectful so they grow up to raise responsible and respectful children themselves. #7 Talk to your children about online predators, cyber bullying, and child trafficking. You may not get a second chance.

Anonymous July 19, 2010, 3:56 PM

WARNING!! parents in AMERICA WATCH AND LEARN!! this is the reason why we dont let our 10 yr old shows their bras and chest on you tube! and why they dont deserve PRIVACY UNTIL THEY MOVE OUT! (ALWAYS MONITOR WHAT YOUR KIDS DO)and whos to blame but the lazy parents! kids cant raise themselves or teach themselves between right and wrong im sure she didnt think all this was going to happen but if the parents would have supervise instead of assuming she was having video chats with friends they woudnt be in this place, why do parents think that the MIN A CHILD CAN WALK AND TALK THEY NO LONGER NEED GUIDANCE!! ignorant and DUMB PEOPLE, POOR GIRL HER PARENTS fail her!! best of luck to the lil girl!!

Liz July 19, 2010, 4:13 PM

Computers and webcams should be out in the open in a common area, such as the kitchen. You don’t have to be “on them 24/7”. You, the parent, are in charge. You can control how much time they spend on the computer. You can monitor their computer activities. The child does not decide where their computer is and what they do on it, nor do their friends. No matter how “mature” you think your child is, they are not in charge for a reason.

Shaddup July 19, 2010, 4:29 PM

I hate to blame the parents, but they should know by now that consequences will never be the same.

David July 19, 2010, 4:34 PM

She is lying to her parent when she says she didn’t make the videos. She also openly provoked people to make said attacks upon her.

As far as i can see she was just begging for this to happen. She likes the attention, and even made videos with her father shouting just so she can have more hits.

It’s sad when her mother is so far in the dark to believe that she is innocent.

Tyler Ryan July 19, 2010, 4:46 PM

Wait a sec, I’m confused.

How could her parents deny that she was posting videos, if they HELPED HER make a video to counter all of the “youtube haters”. Seriously?

Anonymous July 19, 2010, 4:49 PM

She’s completely lying about what the fake police officer said! There’s a recording of it on YouTube. The fake officer asks to come over and she tells him no. Here is the link:

Anonymous July 19, 2010, 4:54 PM

Her mother is lying throughout the entire interview. Jessi went on the computer later that night and there was a video of her on the website Stickam talking to people. In it, she says “oh, I don’t care, I’ll take any fame I can get.” She also went onto her twitter (@jessiislaughter) and wrote two things. The call with the “police” officer can be found on YouTube under the name Officer Anonymous.

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