By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON — The best hope for a grieving family was summed up on national television: “This is the end of it,” Rob Edward said of his family’s long-running feud with Jennifer Petkov.
The longrunning story of Detroit Street — in which a little girl and her mother faced a losing battle with Huntington’s disease and were taunted by a neighbor — may have finally ended Monday when Edward, his family and Jennifer Petkov and her husband appeared on the “Dr. Phil” show.
Phil McGraw served as mediator for an episode entitled, “Unforgivable Acts?” The segment reviewed the history of tensions that began in October 2010, when Petkov admitted posting disturbing pictures on Facebook, altered images of Rob’s daughter, Kathleen Edward, and her mother, Laura, who died from Huntington’s in 2009. The family said they hope for closure following Kathleen’s death last month at age 9.
Edward and his wife were in the California studio with McGraw; Petkov and her husband, Scott, appeared via satellite link.
“They’ve been called the cruelest couple in America,” McGraw said while explaining the background. Videos were shown featuring Jennifer Petkov defiantly admitting to local media that she posted the pictures, “for personal satisfaction” and because it “rubs” the family the wrong way.
“Did you say, ‘I wish Kathleen would hurry up and die?’” McGraw asked Petkov.
“I’m sorry for everything,” Petkov said. Although telling McGraw she hadn’t done, “any of the things they’re accusing me of,” Petkov offered an apology for what had taken place.
“I don’t expect your forgiveness,” Petkov said. “But I’m sorry if I said anything ever or did anything ever that hurt you.”
Forgiveness may not have been possible for some. Kathleen’s grandmother, Rebecca Rose, also appeared via satellite and said that Petkov’s harassment continued long after an apology given by Petkov when the story went viral.
“After my daughter died [in 2009],” Rose said, “I never had a chance to grieve because I was defending myself and reading nasty posts and seeing pictures of my dying granddaughter. I want to grieve for my daughter and granddaughter without being tormented by Jennifer Petkov.”
Rose maintained that Petkov has not been truthful throughout the ordeal, and continued her harassment long after claiming innocence.
“I wish there was something I could do to make it all better,” Petkov said.
“There is, Jennifer,” Rose responded: “Tell the truth.”
Petkov did admit to McGraw that she had “a rage problem” in the past, and said she sought counseling for that.
“Did you bring this on yourself?” McGraw asked Petkov, wondering if she was trying to portray herself as the victim.
“Yes I did, with the pictures,” Petkov said, admitting to the original doctored images of the little girl and her mother with superimposed Grim Reaper photos, yet denying that she made subsequent posts.
At the show’s end, Edward accepted the apology — albeit one he said was forced because Petkov “got caught” — and did so in his daughter’s name.
“Kathleen would have forgiven you,” Edward said. “So I forgive you. It doesn’t mean I like you … but I’m not mad at you.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])