CHICAGO – A suburban Chicago woman has apologized for an Internet hoax in which she claimed to be pregnant with a terminally ill child, saying the story that attracted nearly a million hits to her Web site stemmed from "unresolved pain" she could not handle alone.
Rebeccah Beushausen, 26, of Mokena, wove a tale for two months about being an unmarried mother who chose to carry her child to term rather than have an abortion because of her deep Christian faith. A suspicious follower exposed the lie last week.
Beushausen posted a lengthy apology on her blog Sunday, saying she had lost pregnancies in the past.
"I have suffered this type of loss, more than once, to varying degrees, and while the circumstances and the times vary ... the pain is very constant," Beushausen wrote.
She had said her baby was diagnosed with Trisomy 13 syndrome, a chromosomal defect that can cause severe mental retardation and death. Followers promised to pray for her and her baby, April Rose, and sent letters and gifts to a post office box she listed online.
But when she wrote about the child's birth and posted photos last week, one reader recognized the baby as a lifelike doll.
Jennifer McKinney, of Mound, Minnesota, followed Beushausen's blog and helped promote it. She said the apology did not include enough information to explain why Beushausen lied.
"To be honest, I think she is far from recognizing the true gravity of the situation," said McKinney, who writes a Christian blog that dealt with her own difficult pregnancy.
Beushaushen's sister, Anna, said Monday that the falsehood began before the blog and that her sister has dealt with a lot of pain in her life. She said the blog, which she did not learn about until last week, was a way for her sister to work through it.
"I do understand why people are mad, and so does she," Anna Beushausen said. "I see pieces of her life in there. She is so remorseful, and she is in immense pain."
Rebeccah Beushausen did not respond to an e-mail sent Monday. A woman who answered the phone at a number listed for her mother declined comment.
In her apology, Beushausen said she began writing the story as therapy but became addicted to the attention it generated. She said she lied "to a community of people whose only intention was to support me through this time and that is wrong, and for that I am sorrier than you could know."
Beushausen's phone number was disconnected Friday, and a woman who answered the phone at her mother's home declined comment.
Beushausen was living in Lockport but moved back to her family's home in Mokena after her hoax was exposed.
Lockport Police Sgt. Bruce Kruizenga said he didn't know if the department had received any complaints about Beushausen and Mokena Police Sgt. Randal Stumpf said his department was not investigating.
Don Blumenthal, an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University who specializes in Internet security and cybercrime, said it is difficult to prosecute such cases.
Although she received some tokens of support, it doesn't appear that Beushausen profited in a substantial way from her blog. She said she made an agreement with an advertiser but was never paid because the ad was not up for the required minimum 45 days.
It's hard to establish jurisdiction and even that a crime has occurred, and few people have the legal skills to prosecute such cases, said Blumenthal, who previously led the Internet investigations center at the Federal Trade Commission.
"It's an area of law that needs a lot of development," Blumenthal said.