An American husband and wife have been branded the most heartless couple in the U.S. after taunting the family of a seven-year-old girl who is dying from an incurable disease.
Scott and Jennifer Petkov's despicable behaviour has caused outrage across the country after they posted a photo of terminally ill schoolgirl Kathleen Edwards on Facebook above a set of crossed bones.
Little Kathleen is in the final stages of Huntington’s disease – the same wasting illness that her mother, Laura, died from last year at the age of 24.
another incredibly cruel taunt, Mrs Petkov also put a picture of the girl’s dead mother in the arms of the Grim Reaper online.
After Laura Edwards died last year, the Petkovs also allegedly drove their truck – which bears the message ‘Death Machine’ and has a coffin attached to it – down the street and honked the horn.
The sick attacks are the culmination of a long-running and increasingly bitter feud between the Petkovs and a number of neighbours in Trenton, Michigan that have raged over the past couple of years.
Neighbours accused the couple of laughing and poking fun at Laura Edwards and her daughter because of their disease, a progressive neurological disorder that causes involuntary writhing movements.
A Facebook page was set up identifying Jennifer Petkov as the ‘Devil of Detroit Street’ and an online petition describing the couple as ‘disgusting human beings’ was aiming to collect 100,000 names.
The story has also gone viral - causing people from around the world, including Britain and Germany, to send messages of support to Kathleen's family.
The dying girl’s father Robert Edwards appealed to the Petkov family: ‘Just leave us alone; that’s all we want. Don’t make any more comments about our daughter.’
Mr Edwards, 26, said it has been tough enough caring for his family.
‘You have to understand how angry we are,’ he told the Detroit News.
The police told us they were shocked that we haven’t gone over there and beat the hell out of her.
'But there’s more important things to deal with, like our daughter. She’s hanging in there. We have hospice at our home every week, and that’s a lot to deal with on its own.’
Kathleen’s stepmother, Gabrielle Edward, said the feud started two years ago.
‘Kathleen’s grandmother had a birthday party, and Jennifer sent a message asking if her kids could come over to play,' she said.
But the grandmother, Rebecca Rose, did not respond to the text quickly enough, she said. 'That's where it all started.'
Asked why she escalated the ugly feud, Jennifer Petkov said it was for 'personal satisfaction' and 'because it burns Rebecca Rose's a** raw.'
Mrs Edwards, 19, said they have tried to shield Kathleen from the taunts.
‘She’s seen some of this stuff, but we’re doing our best to try and keep her away from it. When the truck would pull up, we’d immediately take her inside to play,’ she added.
She said Kathleen, a third-grader, is having a tough time with her illness.
‘She’s having seizures. It’s hard enough to deal with without all this other stuff. I’ll tell you what: I’m taking this a lot better than my husband is.’
Family friend Michelle Yerigian, 42, said: ‘I don’t understand how people could spew such hatred. They would pull up in the truck with the coffin attached, rev up the engine, and say to Kathleen, "I can’t wait until you die."
‘When I saw what she posted on Facebook, I almost threw up. I’m totally dumbfoun
Kathleen’s family have been contacted by dozens of people after a video report of the story went viral on the internet.
‘They have heard from people from the UK, Germany, Minnesota - it’s incredible,’ said Mrs Yerigian, who has organized a rally in support of Kathleen on October 23.
‘This isn’t about trying to get revenge. We’re telling people not to do anything stupid,’ she said.
Mrs Petkov, 33, tried to make amends by apologising yesterday. She said she would walk right across the street and tell the Edwards family herself if a restraining order hadn’t been issued against her by a local court.
Protected: Kathleen's father and step-mother are doing their best to shield the little girl from the taunts
‘What I did was ignorant and wrong,’ she admitted.
'I’m not proud of myself because this went from a neighbourhood dispute to a huge thing.'
Mrs Petkov’s husband, Scott, 30, told the Detroit News that his wife’s ‘brutal honesty’ has caused his family to ‘not get along with a lot of people.’
He said the fallout of the Facebook posting resulted in his suspension with pay from his job as a forklift repairman in nearby Warren.
He said his employer is considering firing him.
The eldest of the Petkovs’ four children was also sent home from school after getting into an argument with a classmate who confronted him about the Internet photos, said the couple.
‘My husband is a good person and I hope he doesn’t lose his job. I hope our family doesn’t lose his job. I’m the bad person,’ said Mrs Petkov.
‘I feel horrible for what I’ve said and done. That little girl shouldn’t have had to lose her mum like that and she shouldn’t have to lose her life either. I just hope she didn’t see those pictures.’
Mrs Petkov’s Facebook posting has now been removed.
But there could still be serious repercussions for the couple.
Maria Miller, spokeswoman for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, said, ‘We have contacted the Trenton Police Department to look into the allegations.’