On May 22, Pennsylvania 25-year-old Shawn Shatto took her own life—but her parents say she was aided by an “evil” online forum where members not only provided her with a special recipe to make a successful attempt but also encouraged her in the act, wishing her “safe travels” just before she died.
“Not one person said there is another way,” her mom, Jackie Bieber, told The York Daily Record. “It’s like a cult.”
Shatto was discovered lying on her bedroom floor, blue and cold to the touch by her terrified mother, who quickly realized her kind-spirited daughter who loved fantasy and gaming was dead.
The death initially left the family and Newberry Township police baffled. There were no empty pill bottles or clues left behind in the room to provide insight about what may have led to Shatto’s untimely death. However, after Shatto’s phone was discovered they learned the disturbing truth of her final days.
Through posts on her phone they discovered that Shatto—who her family said had always struggled to find her place in the world—had turned to an online forum that describes itself as “pro-choice” on its views on suicide.
Through the forum, her family says she found specific instructions on how to kill herself including a three-day recipe of various over-the-counter medications.
Shatto had meticulously copied down the recipe—which was created so that the person ingesting the medications would not vomit up the poison they consumed—and discussed her progress on the site.
“Just took it. I’m (bleeping) terrified,” she wrote in her final message, according to information that had been stored on her phone.
But rather than call authorities or encourage her to seek help, fellow members appeared to encourage her.
“Safe travels and I hope you find peace,” one commenter wrote with a thumbs-up emoji.
Others wished her “good luck” in her final moments.
“They were cheering her on to the finish line of a suicide,” her aunt Elizabeth Hoffman told local station WPMT.
Shatto, who her family says suffered from severe depression and anxiety, had tried to seek help in the past visiting doctors and therapists but continued to struggle.
Her sister described Shatto to the Daily Record as someone who felt more comfortable in her fantasy worlds whether it was through gaming, anime or Harry Potter novels.
It was a “square peg in a round hold kind of life,” she said.
But her family was outraged after discovering the messages and is now seeking to get the site shut down.
“No one gave her an option to live or for help," her mother said adding that she had no idea these type of sites exist.
Newberry Township Police are now looking into the matter to see whether there is anything they can do, Chief Steve Lutz told the local paper.
The site has even earn the attention of local lawmakers including Rep. Frank Ryan who asked the state’s House Judiciary committee to see whether the state had any laws on its books to prohibit such a website, WHTM reports.
As for the online forum itself, shortly after Shatto’s death a disclaimer appeared on the site describing it as a “forum where we discuss mental illness and suicide from a perspective of suicidal people, as well as the moral implications of the act itself.”
The message went on to describe the site as a “pro-choice” forum.
“We are not a pro-suicide forum, nor do we encourage anyone here to commit suicide,” the disclaimer reads. “We do not provide the means or tools to do so either.”
It also said those who were suicidal should contact a hotline, but warned that hotline volunteers “may call emergency services if they think you are at imminent risk of death.”
A site administrator known as Marquis went a step further to discuss the allegations in an email with The York Daily Record saying that after Shatto’s death the site took down the thread and had banned one of the members in question.
While he understands the devastating loss for the family he said he didn’t appreciate the family’s “misrepresentation” of the site.
“The accusations of suicide encouragement are completely unfounded,” he wrote. “The demonization of this forum by family members and friends of the deceased member on Facebook has been sickening for me to watch.”
Shatto’s funeral was held on Wednesday.
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