Dead Marine's E-Mails In Limbo

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The family of a Marine killed in Iraq is pleading with Internet giant Yahoo! for access to his e-mail account, which the company says is off-limits under its privacy policy.

Lance Cpl. Justin M. Ellsworth, 20, was killed by a roadside bomb on Nov. 13 during a foot patrol in Al Anbar province. The family wants the complete e-mail file that Justin maintained, including notes to and from others, including friends, families and strangers.

"I want to be able to remember him in his words. I know he thought he was doing what he needed to do. I want to have that for the future," said John Ellsworth, Justin's father. "It's the last thing I have of my son."

Ellsworth says as executor, he gets all of Justin's personal effects — including the e-mail messages.

"This is kind of closure for me. I can print them out, I can put them in a book, and I can look at them any time I need to," the elder Ellsworth told Jeff Gilbert of CBS radio station WWJ-AM.

But without the account's password, the request has been repeatedly denied. In addition, Yahoo! policy calls for erasing all accounts that are inactive for 90 days. Yahoo! also maintains that all users agree at sign-up that rights to a member's ID or contents within an account terminate upon death.

"While we sympathize with any grieving family, Yahoo! accounts and any contents therein are nontransferable" even after death, said Karen Mahon, a Yahoo! spokeswoman.

Ellsworth says he's willing to go to court, but he hopes it doesn't come to that.

"I can be a very good advocate for him, telling people about his accomplishments, but I'd much rather have them have it in his words," he said.
  • Lloyd Vries

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