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Handling death on social media

Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 @ 5:32 PM

A mother talks about her son's death and how it was posted on social media before family members were even aware.

Oakwood High School graduate Zachary Johnson was just 19 when he was found unresponsive in January in Oklahoma, where he was attending college. His older sister, Erin, in grad school at Mississippi State, started driving toward Oklahoma, hoping for the best. But while still on the road, an acquaintance called her to express sympathy for the loss of her brother. 

"Erin did not find out about her brother from us and that's pretty tragic, said their mother, Beth Johnson. 

RELATED: Rise in teen suicide, social media coincide; is there a link?

Johnson said the family was unprepared for how astonishingly fast the bad news would travel via social media. Then grieving mother and daughter saw a few comments on Zach's Facebook page they perceived as inappropriate. When asked to take them down, these "friends" instead blocked Beth and Erin, preventing them from seeing the posts.

"I think what bothered me most was people messaging me, that I wasn't friends with, and asking me questions about what had happened before I even knew what had happened," said Erin. 

Her mother received even more intrusive text messages. One of them she said, was shocking and offensive.

"I even had somebody ask if they could see Zachary. If he was here and if he could see him," Johnson said. 

Mothers who have had to deal with death on social media.

Centerville psychologist Dr. Dennis O'Grady says people in general don't know how to handle grief and social media has only magnified the problem. 

"It requires that a person be really emotionally mature to handle and manage it," O'Grady said.

The digital team at Cox Media Group Ohio posts news stories on the WHIO website which sometimes involve death. Social media expert Rachel Lanka says most people comment respectfully, but the comments can vary depending on the manner of death. 

"Particularly in this area with the opiod epidemic, overdoses, you get a lot of comments that are not so sensitive," said Lanka, who said her team is reluctant to censor remarks. 

However, Lanka said Facebook often polices itself.

"There will be other people who jump in and say things like 'The family could read these comments,' or 'You don't know what was going on in that person's life,'" Lanka said. 

She encourages those grieving to use Facebook to tell friends what they want. That is exactly what Chris McCullough did the night her 19-year old son passed away in March. The Huber Heights mother held back tears as she read her post aloud. 

"Please don't ask me how it happened, or what happened. I just can't tell that story again. My boy is gone and that should be enough," McCullough said.

She asked Duncan's Facebook friends to share their memories of him. She later printed their comments on colorful pages that she taped to the wall at his celebration. Dr. O'Grady supports that. 

"When people are grief-stricken, they need positives coming in and negatives to go out," he said.

Beth Johnson acknowledges that only a handful of people directed negative comments toward her family, but they were still hurtful. She urges those people on social media to hold off posting anything when they first hear of someone's death and avoid asking questions. 

"I definitely think waiting until a family member posts, or at least 24 hours," said Johnson. "It's just not the time. It's just not the time."

Lanka said family members can contact Facebook to have their loved one's page memorialized or deleted altogether. Facebook members also have the option of designating someone to manage their page in the event of their death. 

1 stabbed during fight in Dayton, police say

Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 11:09 PM

UPDATE @ 11:31 p.m.:

One person was stabbed and the suspected stabber remains on the loose following a fight on Briarwood Avenue Friday night, according to police.

The man who was stabbed was taken to a local hospital, but is expected to be OK, police said.

Officers did take a juvenile into custody on the scene who may have been involved in the incident, police said.


Dayton police have responded to a possible stabbing on Briarwood Avenue this evening.

Initial reports indicated that multiple people were fighting and that at least one person was possibly stabbed.

LOCAL NEWS: Police officer shoots suspect while responding to domestic incident

The incident was reported around 11 p.m. in the 400 block of Briarwood.

A caller to our news room said he saw a large response from police.

We’re working to learn more.

6 children shot, 1 killed in Cleveland neighborhood

Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 11:27 PM

FROM THE SCENE: 6 children shot, 1 killed in Cleveland (courtesy of CBS affiliate WOIO).

Six children ranging in age from 12 to 16 years old were shot in a Cleveland neighborhood and one has died, according to CBS affiliate WOIO.

The shooting was reported Friday night in the 11000 Buckeye Road, WOIO reported.

According to WOIO, Cleveland police had blocked off East 116th Street and Buckeye Road following the shooting.

WOIO reported an unknown number of suspects dressed in black hooded sweatshirts remained on the loose Friday night.

The shooting was reported as a gunfight in the street.

Medical helicopter called to motorcycle crash

Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 10:50 PM

A medical helicopter has been called to a motorcycle crash on Jasper Road this evening.

Emergency crews responded to the 2800 block of Jasper around 10:40 p.m.

LOCAL NEWS: 18-year-old pedestrian killed in Warren County; driver thought he hit a deer

Initial reports indicated at least one person was injured.

We’re working to learn more.

Clouds increase tonight, cool temperatures return this weekend

Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 4:41 AM
Updated: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 3:47 PM

A cooler day is expected Saturday, but warmer temperatures return next week in the Dayton area.

RELATED: Dayton Interactive Radar - WHIO Doppler 7


  • Increasing clouds late tonight
  • Isolated sprinkle early Saturday
  • Cooler and dry to finish the weekend

(Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Brett Collar)

RELATED: 5-Day Forecast



Clouds will be on the increase overnight tonight. It’ll be a mild and breezy night with temperatures dropping into the lower 40s.

(Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Brett Collar)

RELATED: County-by-County Weather

SATURDAY: Lots of clouds around for the morning and with a chance for a passing sprinkle or light shower, but most will likely remain dry. Temperatures will climb from the 40s to near 50 degrees by midday, then fall after the cold front moves through. It will become breezy at times, delivering a wind chill in the upper 30s to low 40s through most of the day. Some clearing is expected into Saturday night with temperatures turning colder. Overnight lows drop into the upper 20s by morning, but feel colder with a light breeze still around.

SUNDAY: High pressure returns to the Miami Valley, bringing sunshine and a few clouds. A seasonal afternoon expected with highs in the upper 40s. Still a very light breeze in place will result in wind chills around five to 10 degrees cooler at times.

MONDAY: Mostly sunny and milder for Monday with highs in the lower 50s.

TUESDAY: Partly cloudy, breezy and milder for Tuesday. Temperatures will climb to nearly 10 degrees above normal into the middle 50s.

WHIO Weather App 

WEDNESDAY: Morning sun gives way to clouds throughout the day. Another mild day with highs in the lower 50s. There’s a slight chance for showers into the evening or night.