Woman Arrested After Repeatedly Harassing 2-Year-Old Girl With Rare Skin Condition

Anna Yiley and her mom
Hope for Anna/Facebook

Jennie Riley would do anything to protect her daughter, Anna -- and for two years, she has. The toddler was born in 2017 with a rare condition known as “harlequin ichthyosis," which causes her skin to thicken and crack whenever it's exposed to the air, and makes every day an uphill battle. It's been a difficult diagnosis to navigate, but Jennie has seen an overwhelming amount of support from friends, family, and even strangers on social media, where she's shared Anna's story. However, there's been one stranger in particular who has made the Rileys' journey particularly painful -- so painful, in fact, that she's since been charged and arrested over it.

  • Police in Long Island, New York, arrested Krista Sewell, 26, Thursday in connection with threats made against the toddler over the course of a year.

    The threats were waged on all fronts -- from Facebook to Instagram to the Riley family's GoFundMe page. The 26-year-old from Melville, New York, also mailed threatening letters to the child's home in Ulster County, New York, according to NBC 4

    Just what exactly these threatening messages said, however, has not been clarified yet by police. But it's safe to say they were alarming enough to result in legal action.

    Sewell faces charges of aggravated harassment as a hate crime, though her next court date is not immediately known.

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  • The harassment is particularly heartbreaking considering the difficult journey young Anna has had so far in life.

    Her condition causes painful cracking all over her body, which can result in open wounds, and requires extensive daily treatments. 

    In a statement released this week, Jennie wrote that she chose to share Anna's story on social media to educate people about her daughter's condition and spread awareness. She never could have expected the hate-filled messages it would bring.

    "Although I knew there was a possibility for negativity I never expected to receive the messages that were sent to me, over the past year I have fought a battle I never thought I would fight and I felt fear no mother should feel. I want to thank the New York State police and the Ulster County Sheriff's Department for their diligence, dedication and most of all their compassion. I hope we can all learn from this and understand the importance of teaching our kids kindness and acceptance of visible differences."
  • Shortly after Sewell's arrest, Jennie took to Facebook to say a few more words about the harassment her family has endured.

    "For the last year I’ve been fighting a hidden battle," Jennie wrote, adding that Sewell had been targeting her for a year. "Countless messages, emails, and comments have been sent to us all much too graphic to share. It is not only not okay to send these types of messages, it’s also illegal. Ichthyosis is incredibly hard for anybody to live with and I personally choose to live without hate in my heart. As shocking as this whole thing has been I pray that instead of getting angry you would choose to make a positive out of this and donate to the foundation for Ichthyosis."

    In another post, she wrote that she refuses to teach her daughter to "hide from her disorder with some sort of shame about having different skin."

    "One day she will have to go out on her own to face the world and I will do everything in my power to make sure she has the confidence that is needed," Jennie continued. "I hope so much that people learn there is someone on the other side of their keyboards and it’s not ok to send hateful messages."

    For now, Jennie hopes the story will help bring an end to cyberbullying by shining a light on all its forms.