Actress Melissa Gilbert, Christian Gospel Singer Natalie Grant Reveal They Were Victims of Dying Daughter Hoax

PHOTO: Melissa Gilbert and Natalie Grant
Share
Copy

An updated version of this story will air on "Nightline Prime," Saturday, July 5 at 10 p.m. ET.

The catfisher who drew country music star Brad Paisley and his wife into an elaborate web of lies also hoaxed actress Melissa Gilbert, most famous for her role as Laura on the television series, "Little House on the Prairie," as well as Christian Gospel singer Natalie Grant.

But Friday, one family used in the hoax met with Grant for a tender meeting. Grant did a private performance for them of her song "Held," which had consoled the grieving family long before Grant was hoaxed with a picture of their daughter.

"For me such a sweet thing coming out of something that was so negative," Grant said. "When you get to meet somebody that's been helped by your music, it's the reason that I make music."

A few months ago we broke the story of how one woman had successfully drawn at least a dozen celebrities including the Paisleys and Kate Gosselin into the elaborate online hoax, convincing each of them that they were communicating with a child dying of cancer. The catfisher assumed the identities of real children who had passed away, and their parents, when communicating with the celebrities online and in many cases in phone calls.

After our report, Gilbert tweeted us that she had been a victim of the same woman.

When we spoke with her, she described the same heartbreaking discovery that the "child" she had established a relationship with was actually a grown woman who had used the same ruse to play on the best intentions of a number of musicians and actors.

Friday night, we traveled with the family of the little girl whose photos were used to tug on Natalie Grant's heartstrings, to an emotional first meeting with the performer. Grant had taken phone calls from the mother of a little girl whose picture she was sent. The pictures were of Ellie Skees, who passed away in 2007 of neuroblastoma, five years before the calls.

Grant, like Paisley, even sang for the hoaxster over the phone believing she was serenading a dying little girl. When she learned of the hoax, she was devestated, but she admitted she had been supressing suspicions all along:

"I never could quite shake that feeling that in the back of my head that something about it just didn't sound like a real little girl," Grant told ABC News. "I struggled with guilt, thinking how can you even think that."

But Friday night, Grant met Ellie's real parents, John and Sarah Skees and Ellie's younger brother Ethan. After ABC News' investigation led our producers to realize that the Skees' heartbreaking story had been used to hoax Grant, ABC News arranged to bring them to a concert Grant was playing last night so they could meet for the first time.

The Skees gave Grant a picture of their daughter, and one of her headscarves as a tangible reminder that the little girl who had touched her heart was a real child.

"I think after we have witnessed a day like today and all that we've been through, there is nothing negative to be spun about what happened," Elli's father John Skees said after the meeting. "I can only see positive."

Grant also found closure.

"I still did cry tears for a girl who did die," she said. "It just wasn't the girl I thought it was."

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 23112422.
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...