New Rule: When 'Dating' Online, Add 20 Years, 100 Lbs. To Your Partner's Profile

In a bizarre, completely epic, seemingly made-for-the-big screen true story featured in Wired, a 45-year-old former Marine living in upstate New York named Thomas Montgomery visited gaming site Pogo with a fabricated identity: that of Tommy, an 18-year-old Marine about to be sent to Iraq. In a chat room, he met Jessi, an 17-year-old West Virginian girl, with whom he fell in love over IM. There were times when Tommy couldn't be online because he was "on duty" — but that was really because Montgomery had a wife, two daughters and a job in a factory. Jessi, however, had more free time on her hands, so she would make video montages of herself for Tommy, set to Aerosmith power ballads. About eight months after they'd met online, Tommy proposed. Jessi accepted.

He sent her flowers; she sent him G-strings and dog-tags engraved "Tom & Jessi Always & Forever." Tommy told Jessi to send his mail to Thomas Montgomery, his "father."

Montgomery was consumed by his marathon online chats with Jessi. While at work, he didn't stop talking about her, telling colleagues that he planned to leave his wife and move to West Virginia. In the evening, he would chase his daughters off the computer, planting himself in front of the screen late into the night.

At some point, Montgomery's wife, Cindy, discovered some of the items Jessi had sent. "I cannot believe is that you are living out some bizarre fantasy — as father and son," she wrote in a note to her husband. Cindy also wrote a letter to Jessi, enclosing a family photo and explaining that there was no "Tommy," only a 45-year-old man, his fantasies, his wife and two daughters (ages 14 and 16).

Jessi didn't know what to think, so she contacted a coworker Tommy had mentioned also frequented Pogo: Brian Barret. She wanted to know if Tommy was real or fake. Brian, 22, told Jessi the truth: Tommy didn't exist. But Brian and Jessi started messaging regularly. And that's when things took a turn for the worse. Brian boasted about IMing Jessi at work, and, not surprisingly, Montgomery started "acting erratic." And one day, as he was leaving work, someone shot Brian three times, killing him. Montgomery was charged with the murder, and while detectives were investigating, they also found Jessi's phone number on Brian's phone, so they contacted her.

"Jessi" turned out to be a 45-year-old mother of two who had used her daughter's screen name and pictures in all of the contact with Tommy and Brian.

There's several things to be learned from this story, among them that one should never, ever communicate with anyone in West Virgina, that no one left in the world, save Ashton Kutcher and The Girls Next Door, wants to have sex with people over 45, and that To Catch A Predator's Chris Hanson will probably have a job for all of eternity.

An IM Infatuation Turned to Romance. Then the Truth Came Out. [Wired]