Angry obituary causes fuss at Reno newspaper

CARSON CITY — The publisher of the Reno Gazette-Journal said he was rethinking his newspaper’s paid obituary policy after someone submitted an obituary in which he or she accused a woman of child abuse and expressed happiness she had died.

Publisher John Maher pulled the paid obituary for Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick off the daily newspaper’s online edition Tuesday after receiving complaints. The obituary also appeared in the Tuesday print edition. No names of her children are included in the obituary, which states in part:

“She is survived by 6 of 8 children whom she spent her lifetime torturing in every way possible….On behalf of her children whom she so abrasively exposed to her evil and violent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the afterlife reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty and shame that she delivered on her children.”

An official with Washoe County Child Protective Services, which cares for young victims of abuse, said Wednesday that Johnson-Reddick, 78, was not currently involved with the system, but refused to release anything about any past involvement with the office.

In a statement to readers Wednesday, Maher reiterated he had removed the obituary from the online site and was reviewing “the circumstances surrounding its placement. Once we’ve completed our review, we’ll determine what, if any future actions are required.”

Maher said the Washoe County Public Guardian’s office confirmed that Johnson had died recently. The newspaper obit had listed the death date as Sept. 30, 2013, a date in the future. Johnson-Riddick actually died on Aug. 30.

The publisher said the obituary was submitted via an online self-service portal. That means someone wrote the obituary on a form in the Gazette-Journal’s website and paid for placing it in the newspaper. While newspapers in past generations had staff members write up obituaries and published them for free, now most are paid advertisements written by a submitter.

Numerous online publications around the world have been posting stories and messages about Johnson-Reddick’s obituary.

A check shows that this is hardly the first obituary used as a way to express rage against a deceased. Back in 2008, a Napa Valley, Calif., newspaper published an obituary which read: “Dolores had no real hobbies, made no contribution to society and rarely shared a kind word or deed.”

The Review-Journal has an online site for submitting obituaries, along with a policy of submitting them by email. Sue Russell, the newspaper’s tributes and announcements team leader, said every obit is verified with the mortuary before it is published. If the person who submits the obituary is not named in the obituary or is not the legal next of kin, then the newspaper requests the name and numbers of the next of kin from the mortuary. Russell said then they call the next of kin and request permission to run the obituary.

At times, the newspaper has refused to run questionable obituaries, she said.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.

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