Last week, 54-year-old Jennifer Connell was best known as a human-resources manager who worked in Manhattan. But after the internet got wind of a lawsuit she filed against her 8-year-old nephew over an “unreasonably forceful” hug that caused her to fall and break her wrist, Connell was introduced to hundreds of thousands of readers as the #auntfromhell.
However, the narrative that propelled Connell into viral infamy — that of a selfish opportunist trying to milk a small child for crime of overzealous affection — was cast into doubt on Tuesday night, after Connell shared her side of the story with CNN.
Connell explained that her intention was never to take money from the pockets of her beloved nephew but to gain access to his family’s homeowner’s insurance. She told the network that she would have preferred to sue the insurance company, but was told by her attorney that an individual had to be named for the case to proceed.
“This was meant to be a simple homeowners insurance case,” Connell told the network. “Connecticut law is such that I was advised by counsel that this is the way a suit is meant to be worded.”
In Connell’s telling, she is neither from hell, nor, technically, the boy’s aunt. Though 12-year-old Sean Tarala refers to Connell as his aunt, he is actually the son of her cousin. Connell went on to say that she and the boy’s family remain close, and that she recently took him shopping for his Halloween costume.
“It’s amazing the power that the Internet has that something can go viral, completely out of context,” she said. “I’m certainly not trying to retire to some villa in the south of France. I’m simply trying to pay off my medical bills.”