Tragic online love triangle built on LIES: Two middle-aged lovers who started affair by BOTH posing as teenagers... before torrid romance drove Sunday school teacher to murder 'rival' over woman who didn't EXIST
- Thomas Montgomery began an unplanned online affair with a girl he believed was 18-years-old called 'Jessi'
- Montgomery told 'Jessi' he was an 18-year-old Marine
- When Montgomery's wife discovered the affair she sent 'Jessi' a photo of her 46-year-old husband and their two children
- 'Jessi' broke off the affair and began a new one with Montgomery's 22-year-old co-worker Brian Barrett
- Montgomery became so jealous he shot and killed Barrett
- It turned out 'Jessi' was in fact a 45-year-old woman called Mary Shieler who used her own daughter's pictures to send to men online
By James Nye
Published: | Updated:
The chance encounter online between a gorgeous young 18-year-old girl named Jessi and a handsome 18-year-old marine called Thomas Montgomery seemed on the surface to be innocent enough.
However, what Jessi, whose online name was Tallhotblonde, didn't know was that her 'sweet sexy Marine' was actually a 46-year-old married father of two from Clarence, in upstate New York.
And what Montgomery didn't know until it was too late was that the beautiful girl who sent him underwear and promised marriage was in fact a 45-year-old woman called Mary Shieler who lived in Oak Hill, West Virginia.
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46-year old Thomas Montgomery began a spiraling online affair which led to him murdering a love rival and discovering his alleged 18-year-old lover was in fact a 45-year-old woman
When Tallhotblonde began instant messaging Montgomery on a gaming chat room site, the Sunday School teacher was concerned about how it would look if he replied.
Intrigued by the flirtatious nature of the messages and the beautiful profile pic the girl called 'Jessi' had, Montgomery decided to use the anonymity of the Internet and message her back pretending to be 18 too.
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Before long the messaging became romantic, but it ultimately led to the unraveling of Montgomery's marriage, the death of a co-worker, his own eventual imprisonment and the shocking twist which haunts him to this day.
Giving himself the moniker 'MarineSniper', Montgomery told 'Jessi' that he was a young, handsome Iraq-bound Marine, while she claimed to be a softball-playing high school senior from West Virignia.
A blurred picture of Jessi Shieler, the 18-year-old daughter of Mary Shieler, who used it under the online name Tallhotblonde
As the pair's online affair intensified, 'Jessi' began to send Montgomery extremely provocative photographs and he sent her a picture of himself from 30 years ago, when he was a member of the U.S. Marines.
'I kept thinking, well, we're never going to meet... I'll just play the game with her,' said Montgomery, whose tragic story has now been turned into a Lifetime Movie directed by 'Friends' Courtney Cox.
The cyber-flirting, which began in May 2005, soon turned to cyber-sex as Montgomery lied about his history of covert ops, even though he never saw action during his stint in the military.
Described by neighbours as a good man who worked for his daughters' swim team board, Montgomery's life slowly started to become fixated around his conversations online with 'Jessi.'
She fed him photos from 'her' high school basketball team, softball team, graduation and prom as their relationship continued for months.
On his part, Montgomery had created an alter-ego of himself as younger and stronger.
'He was my height, six-feet tall, had bright red hair,' said Montgomery to ABC News.
'Big shoulders, muscles and all that.'
Online messages recovered between the lying pair revealed that the relationship had become dangerously obsessive for Montgomery who said it 'became more real to me than real life'.
Thomas Montgomery sent 'Jessi' this picture of himself as 'MarineSniper'. It was in fact picture of himself taken thirty years beforehand
The exchange of gifts between the pair continued as did love letters.
'I love you always and forever, Tommy,' wrote 'Jessi'.
'I have never felt this way,' Montgomery replied.
Wanting to end the affair, Montgomery found he couldn't and described it as like a 'drug'.
It transpired that Mary Shieler was taking pictures of her daughter Jessi and passing them off as pictures of herself to Montgomery and other men online
It even seemed that he was losing touch with reality, as a note to himself proved.
'On January 2, 2006 Tom Montgomery (46-years-old) ceases to exist and is replaced by an 18-year-old battle-scarred marine... He is moving to West Virginia to be with the love of his life.'
However, fate caught up with him as his wife Cindy found a package that 'Jessi' had sent to Montgomery which led her to his secret pile of photos, underwear and letters from West Virginia.
Cindy took matters into her own hands and sent a letter back to the sender with a photo of her husband and his family.
The picture that Cindy Montgomery (right) sent 'Jessi' of her family life with Thomas Montgomery
'Let me introduce you to these people,' she wrote.
'The man in the centre is Tom, my husband since 1989... He is 46 years old.'
Horrified, 'Jessi' sent Montgomery a text message ending the affair.
'She sends me a text message and says, she hates me... you should be put in jail for this,' said Montgomery to ABC News.
A vengeful 'Jessi'/Mary Shieler then used the Internet to find a 22-year-old co-worker of Montgomery called Brian Barrett, setting in motion a tragic series of events which led to his murder.
Brian Barrett was a 22-year-old co-worker of Thomas Montgomery and became the object of 'Jessi'/Mary Shieler's affections after she rejected Montgomery
She flirted online with Barrett, who called himself 'beefcake', on open forums for Montgomery to see.
With both men believing that she was the gorgeous young thing in her profile pictures and keepsakes sent to them, the pair engaged in a furious rivalry.
A blurred picture of Jessi Shiebler which her mother Mary sent to Thomas Montgomery when she was flirting online with him
'Brian will pay in blood,' wrote Montgomery at one point to 'Jessi'.
As the messages he sent to 'Jessi' became increasingly unhinged, Montgomery was embarrassed online by Barrett and Shieler as they posted his real age and picture onto forums, making him out to be a pedophile.
Eventually, Barrett decided to visit 'Jessi' even though Shieler had warned him not to.
Montgomery found out about this, became incensed and on September 15, 2006, drove to meet Barrett as he left where they both worked and shot him three times, killing him.
As police responded to the murder, they quickly uncovered the internet love-triangle and when they couldn't find Montgomery, rushed to 'Jessi'.
However, when police arrived at her door they were presented with 45-year-old Mary Shieler.
Telling her what had happened and how they desperately needed to speak to Jessi, Shieler broke down in a wail of tears and confessed her whole elaborate deception of Montgomery and Barrett.
Upon questioning her, they discovered that Jessi was in fact her daughter and the pictures and underwear she had been sending belonged to her 18-year-old.
It was later discovered that Shieler had flirted online, as 'Jessi', with other men too, and once pointed a videocamera up her unaware daughter's skirt for a video she sent to several men with the question, 'guys, do you like it?'
Now 52, Thomas Montgomery is serving 20-years in Attica Prison in New York for the murder of Brian Barrett
Jessi had no knowledge of her mother's cyber-life.
When the police apprehended Montgomery for the murder of Barrett they built up a strong case against him having found his DNA at the crime scene and a family photo which showed the gun used to shoot the 22-year-old.
Montgomery pleaded guilty to Barrett's murder and was sentenced to 20-years.
Prosecutors in New York desperately searched for a reason to charge Mary Shieler, but ultimately, could find no law she had broken.
In her defence she claimed that she was keeping Montgomery online so that he couldn't talk to other teenagers.
Shieler has never apologised to her daughter and her husband divorced her and Jessi cut off contact.
Brian Barrett's parents began a petition to for laws to protect against future Mary Shielers.
But there seems to be no suggestion as to what such laws would look like from lawmakers in New York.
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