Facebook’s “People You May Know” section can be a helpful tool to connect people to potential friends on the social media site. Suggestions normally point you to someone you used to know or friends of friends that you may want to connect with. The suggestions do not normally display photos of your husband’s other wife.
That’s what happened to Ellenora Fulk, the first wife of Tacoma, Washington, resident Alan Fulk, when “People You May Know” recommended she add Alan’s new wife as a friend on Facebook. Alan recently changed his last name to O’Neill and married Teri Wyatt. Teri’s profile picture, the one that had been suggested to Ellenora, depicted Teri and O’Neill dressed up in evening attire standing in front of a wedding cake — a dead giveaway that O’Neill had found himself a new wife. The only problem was, he and Ellenora were still married.
Ellenora contacted authorities, who charged O’Neill with one count of bigamy. They had been married since 2001, but O’Neill moved out in 2009. O’Neill’s attorney, Philip Thornton, said that his client had trusted a neighbor to file his paperwork for the divorce from his first wife, but the neighbor never did and O’Neill did not follow up to make sure the filing had taken place. O’Neill’s lawyer also said that his client is extremely “embarrassed and remorseful.” O’Neill, who is on unpaid leave from his job as a corrections officer, said, “I’ve never done anything intentionally wrong in my life.”
O’Neill pleaded guilty to the bigamy charge and will serve a year of probation. His second marriage has been annulled as he moves on with the divorce from Ellenora. Surprisingly, she wrote a letter to the court in support of O’Neill, saying, “He just made a bad decision that hurt a few people’s feelings and brought embarrassment to himself.” Ellenora also stated that she felt O’Neill had suffered enough because of all the media coverage of the case.
This story serves as a cautionary reminder that Facebook definitely can bring us closer together, but for some — too close for comfort.