Surviving family struggles with Facebook over photos on memorial page

The Menzos are a spirited Jersey family, welcoming and quick to laugh. That’s today, but it’s been a hard year for the family, trying to recover from the murder of 47-year-old Lisa Menzo Santoro, sister to Jay, mother to Jessica and three siblings and daughter to family matriarch, Pat Menzo.

“Lisa was my idol,” said Pat. “She juggled four children with the greatest of ease. She worked a full-time job. She was at every baseball game, every cheering competition. Her house was as neat as a pin, and any time you talked to her, she would light up a room.”

Daughter Jessica remembers being inseparable from her mother.

“My mom was my best friend. My mom was more than just my mom,” she says. “I was the oldest so we did everything together. It wasn’t just going to the mall. It was going with her to my brother’s wrestling tournament. It was helping her get her work done so we could go and take the kids out on a summer day. We did everything together.”

But in March of 2017, after months of reported physical and emotional abuse, police presume Lisa’s live-in boyfriend shot and killed her in the garage of the home they shared in Pennsylvania.

“My granddaughter … came home from school. She found my daughter … She called 911. An APB went out,” recalled Pat. “In Phillipsburg, New Jersey they spotted the car … They forced him off the road, and he shot himself with the same shotgun.”

Facebook, after learning of the death, converted Lisa’s page to a memorial page, essentially freezing it as it was at the time of her death.

“Lisa was the glue that kept us together,” recalled Jay. “Her memorial Facebook page is now the glue that keeps us all together and interacting. It keeps the relationship with Lisa’s friends. It just serves a lot of good for us.”

But the good feeling soon soured when the family realized that more than a dozen photos of Lisa and her presumed killer remained on the page, a brutal reminder to the family still in mourning.

“We don’t want to see him,” said Pat. “I mean, he killed my daughter.”

The family tried marking the photos as offensive but Facebook wouldn’t delete them. A friend reached out to a Facebook employee who tried to help, but Facebook’s suggestion was that they could download the photos they wanted to keep and start a new page. But the family says it’s not just about the photos.

“We don’t want to close the site down,” said Pat. “We want that site for the children. We want that site for us to look at because of the wit.”

“I mean we stopped sending birthday cards to each another five years ago,” added Jay. “We posted on each other’s wall. I use those things to go back to remember something nice.”

Facebook didn’t return our request for comment before deadline, but the social media service says you can appoint a legacy contact to manage your memorial page after you die. Most of us don’t think about that when we sign up, and Lisa didn’t, but as her family is finding out, it’s an important part of what you leave behind and affects how your life is remembered.

“When I see those pictures,” said Jessica, “it is anger, it is frustration. It’s not even that it’s just there, it’s that we’ve reached out and we’ve given everything we could and nobody’s willing to help us.”

This still painful matter remains unresolved. The family says they’ll keep fighting. The lesson is, take control of how you want your loved ones to remember you online because otherwise, your online legacy will be left to a faceless algorithm.

We’re in this together
For a better-informed future. Support our nonprofit newsroom.
Donate to NJ Spotlight