TRENTON (WWJ) – The Downriver girl who attracted worldwide attention for a neighbor’s taunting during her battle with Huntington’s Disease has died.
Nine-year-old Kathleen Edward, of Trenton, died Wednesday night after a long bout with pneumonia, which is especially tough for Huntington’s patients to beat.
“Kathleen far exceeded our expectations of survival. She’s the strongest little girl I ever met in my entire life, and she didn’t quit fighting. Now she gets to go into the arms of her mother, Laura,” said family friend Michelle Yerigian.
Kathleen was diagnosed with the disease when she was about 3 years old. She was just 6 years old when her mother died of Huntington’s disease at the age of 24.
Kathleen attracted attention from around the world when they learned she was the subject of online taunting by her neighbor, Jennifer Petkov. Petkov published a photo of the terminally ill schoolgirl on Facebook above a set of skull and crossed bones. Petkov also allegedly attached a coffin to her truck, labeled it “Death Machine” and drove it down the street honking the horn.
The girl’s plight sparked cards and letters of support from around the world, and Yerigian’s job was to field the truckloads of mail that came weekly for the girl.
“This little girl touched a lot of people’s lives and not just in Michigan, but across the world. She has friends from Australia, Indonesia, Pakistan, people all over the world have reached out to this little girl and the world is now a sadder place without her in it. But, I think she taught us a very strong lesson in that faith, hope and love can just do amazing things,” said Yerigian.
The family is currently making funeral plans. Meantime, Yerigian said Petkov is due in court next week.