This isn't a false rape case. It's a story about the power of falsehoods; about how lies can destroy innocent, vulnerable people.
Natalia Burgess, 28, is evil personifed. Burgess lured scores of teenage boys, most of them between the ages of 13 and 16 -- she called her victims "little boys" -- into on-line relationships by using fake online personas, only to cruelly dump them and playing with their vulnerable minds. She bragged that she could have had sex with them but didn't want to.
How did Burgess justify her fraud? "Just a tad hurtful but, hey - you play with fire, you will get burned."
You "play with fire," I suppose, by taking people at their word.
Did she hurt anyone? Terribly. One young man committed suicide. We'll get to him in a moment. Many other boys were affected in lesser ways. The principal at the school hardest hit by the imposter said: "[The boys] try to maintain their bravado but underneath there is a deep sense of embarrassment, shame, and a sense of being used."
Two teenagers reported having cyber-sex with Burgess' personas and in some cases activated their webcams. Photos of the boys in states of undress later appeared on social-networking sites.
"When I create these people," Burgess clucked, "I am these people. I was so caught up in my world that the real world around me didn't exist."
Peter Russell was a bit older than most of the young men. He was 20 when he embarked on a several-month on-line relationship with one of Burgess' imaginary characters that seemed so real to him that he really thought they were going to get married. Peter bought a wedding ring and sent the imaginary character a video proposing to her. When she jilted him and told him she'd married someone else, Peter was devastated. The woman continued to "play mind games" with Peter even after the relationship was over. Peter later took his own life.
Burgess' explanation? ''I probably did f....k with his head for the five months we were going out. I felt so guilty when I found out he committed suicide.'' But she takes no responsibility for it. "I don't know how you can blame someone for suicide," she said.
Want to see how much remorse she had for Peter's death? Burgess admitted continuing in an online relationship with Peter's 16-year-old brother for months after Peter's death.
There is a special place in hell for people like Natalia Burgess.