Relatives of Sandy Hook victims have taken a stand on the sixth day of a second defamation trial against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
In testimony Wednesday in Waterbury, Connecticut court, David Wheeler recounted how Jones’ lies led internet detectives and claimed the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting was a hoax. Showed up on his door demanding to see him Six-year-old son, one of 20 children and six educators killed in the attack.
Jones claimed the massacre was a government-orchestrated plan broadcast to his millions of viewers. Mr Wheeler said he discovered Jones’ false theory through a family friend. Insider.
“Someone came to the house and knocked on the door. The man asked to see Ben and said ‘I know he’s here, I know he’s alive,'” Mr Wheeler said. “I feel like I’m underwater. I don’t know which way. Someone openly told the world that this didn’t happen, you’re a liar, a liar, incredibly disorienting.”
Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung’s daughter, Erica Lafferty, was also killed in a chilling testimony reminiscent of Mr Wheeler’s. Ms Rafferty described how she dealt with violence and threats of rape, with people telling her she “should have died and been buried next to my suspended mother” – while coping with her grief.
“For 27 years of my life, that woman was my best friend,” said Ms Rafferty, who has had to move five times since the conspiracy theory began. “People tell me she doesn’t exist, how do you let that happen?”
Mr Wheeler testified his days were consumed by ruthless online messages accusing him of lying, saying Ben never existed and he would burn in hell for his involvement in the “hoax”.
Eventually, the names and photos of him and his wife were posted on fake Twitter accounts. He is again known as the liar, the crisis actor.
On two occasions, strangers came to his house and asked to see his recently buried son, who was actively grieving.
The situation became so dire that Mr Wheeler had to sit down with his surviving son Nate and discuss with him the influence of the conspiracy theory – his son did not understand the pain so raw and undeniable to them How it happened may be suspected by strangers.
“It’s degrading. It feels like you’ve been deprived of legitimacy in a way. It makes you feel as irrelevant, like everything you’ve been through doesn’t matter,” Mr Wheeler said.
Although Jones never mentioned his name, Mr Wheeler said when the far-right Inforwar founder referred to a “crisis actor”, his audience knew who he was referring to.
“Every time he said the word crisis actor, I knew he was talking about me and us,” Mr Wheeler said.
Although Mr Wheeler was initially reluctant to step up his security, he eventually managed the scope of the situation and assigned a Connecticut State Police officer to drive the family.
Ms Rafferty told the court she was aware of Jones’ conspiracy theory about Sandy Hook early on.
“Things would be mailed to my house. There were threats of rape,” she said, adding that she had tried unsuccessfully to report the threats, but police told her there was nothing they could do about it. “I was told it wasn’t specific enough or they couldn’t track it down.”
She begins engaging with internet sleuths suspicious of the Holocaust and dispatches her mother’s mages to desperately try to prove that the 47-year-old loyal principal was real and that she was violently killed. Ms Rafferty is also known as the “Crisis Actress”.
The defense argued that Jones’ audience grew exponentially and the company’s revenue rose dramatically as grieving families grappled with the aftermath of the tragedy and were forced to lessen their trauma through conspiracy theorists.
Jones has already been found responsible for claims he made after the 2012 massacre. Jurors will now decide how much he should pay the relatives of the eight victims and an FBI agent who responded to the scene.
He is expected to testify on Thursday.