Livestrong Cancer Hoax Ends In Woman’s Suicide

One of the blogosphere’s most prominent cancer fighters was “Jonathan Jay White,” a 15-year-old (here’s his Blogger profile) who was “diagnosed with Anaplastic Astrocytoma [[Brain Cancer]].” The fact that we’re using quotation marks so liberally should be a dead giveaway that something is wrong. Also, so is the headline.

Jonathan Jay White
(Given all this, who’s the real kid in this picture? He can’t be happy about his likeness being used like this, right?)

White’s prominence and medical condition led many to lend their support to his predicament. A fund was set up to help pay for his treatment, he received gifts like a signed guitar from Kenny Chesney & a skateboard from Tony Hawk, and the Livestrong foundation even took up the cause. When White was supposed to undergo surgery, however, the bizarre truth came out: he didn’t exist.

“White” was actually 24-year-old Idaho woman Melissa Rice, who had created the persona for reasons yet undetermined. Was it greed? Maybe, but that’s undetermined; the fund set up for White’s treatment hadn’t been (and couldn’t be) touched by her. Attention? Maybe.

We’ll never know, though; after the sheriff’s office caught wind of the hoax, they were about to charge Rice with grand theft by fraud, which is a very felonious charge (and one easy to prove, it would seem). When authorities arrived at her apartment, they found mountains of evidence, but not Rice:

[I]t’s unclear how much money was sent directly to her Ammon apartment. With a warrant in hand, deputies went inside and recovered numerous items donated for Jonathan like an autographed guitar from country singer Kenny Chesney, and a skateboard from Tony Hawk.

As for Rice, unfortunately:

On Wednesday, the Bonneville County Prosecutor was ready to charge Melissa Rice with grand theft by fraud but she was found dead in her car in the hills five miles east of Idaho Falls, from an apparent suicide.

So the sad, weird, disturbing story is over. Now the authorities will be focusing more on returning the gifts, monetary and otherwise, to their original owners. They may not even want it back. And now one of the neediest slivers of our society, cancer fighters, are going to face even more reluctance when it comes to receiving donations. Damn shame.