To most casual Internet browsers, Kiki Kannibal is just some girl who achieved dubious viral online fame in the MySpace-happy days of 2006 for sporting one of the world's most hideous haircuts.
Five years later, Rolling Stone details the quick rise and tragic personal fall of the teenage Internet queen, a story that played itself out in the suburbs of South Florida as much as it did in the dark corners of cyberspace. The story involves statutory rape, a tragic fall at Aventura Mall, death threats, vandalism, terrible parenting, and online stalking.
Thirteen-year-old Kirsten Ostrenga moved with her family to Coral Springs in 2005. The Ostrenga family thought the move to sunny South Florida would be good for the family, but Kirsten failed to adapt to her new surroundings. According to Rolling Stone, she never fit in with the black and Hispanic students "who dominated her classroom" at Sawgrass Springs Middle School, so she embraced her outsider status and began to experiment with hair dye, turning herself into a proto-"scene queen" and listening to pop-punk and emo bands.
By the time she turned 14, Kirsten had adopted the nickname "Kiki Kannibal" and settled on her signature hairstyle: a giant mess of black-striped blond hair that resembled a dead raccoon. Still feeling lonely, she turned to MySpace to make friends. Fascination (both earnest and ironic) with her hair led to her becoming a bona fide MySpace celebrity and frequent target of online harassment.
Her home address was posted online, and kids begin harassing her at shows. Gum was crammed into her hair, a group of guys in their 20s pestered her to pose for a photo and then punched her in the head, and someone spray-painted slut on her family's garage door. Local police repeatedly said there was little they could do.
Despite the harassment, her parents never insisted Kiki get offline, and soon she met a boy through MySpace. Daniel de Jesus Cespedes came from a broken home in Miami-Dade but had found a modicum of fame online as "Mr. MySpace." He told Kiki and her parents he was 17, though in fact he was 18. The two began dating, and Kiki's parents felt sorry for his home life, so he became a frequent guest at their house. His mother often complained about the dyed hair and eyeliner he often came home with, and called Kiki's parents to complain, "He looks like a fucking faggot!" She even threatened, "You and your daughter, you ain't gonna be around no more!"
Kiki's parents called police, but like before, the officers said there was nothing they could do.
Cespedes, though, wouldn't stop seeing Kiki despite his mother's pleas and even got a tattoo of Kiki, raccoon hair and all, inked on his arm.
But one night, Cespedes pressured Kiki into sex against her will. The abuse continued until Kiki ended the relationship and told her mother about it.
The police finally decided to take action, but Cespedes had recently moved to North Carolina with his family. Cops discovered that Cespedes had a habit of pressuring underage girls, some as young as 12, into sex after meeting them online.
Cespedes eventually returned to Florida several months later, and Kiki learned he was dating a 14-year-old girl. That's when police moved in.
They found Cespedes surrounded by underage girls at Aventura Mall. He also had marijuana stashed in his backpack and cocaine hidden in his shoe.
They quickly cuffed him in the parking garage, but a gust of wind caught a piece of paper Cespedes was holding, so the arresting officer temporarily let him free to retrieve it. That's when Cespedes ran and jumped from the second story of the parking structure. Authorities believe the handcuffed 19-year-old was trying to jump on top of a moving van below but tripped on the railing and fell to the asphalt. He was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital and died after spending two months in a coma. A WSVN report on the 2007 incident is titled "Accused molester almost died trying to elude authorities."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Internet detractors began blaming Kiki for his death, and the harassment, both online and in real life, escalated. Her parents decided it was best to leave Coral Springs. Her father took a deep pay cut to transfer, and their Coral Springs home fell into foreclosure before they could sell it.
However, not once did Kiki's parents ever force her offline. Now 18, she lives in Orlando, but her online past continues to haunt her. Her life has been forever marred by the dangers of the Internet and its shady characters, lax law enforcement, and South Florida's crappy real estate market. Oh, and that haircut.
[Rolling Stone: The Girl Who Played with Fire]