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Girl, 9, who was taunted on Facebook for her illness, dies

Courtesy of the Edward family

Kathleen Edward, 9, died Wednesday of Huntington's disease.

By msnbc.com staff and news services

A 9-year-old Detroit-area girl whose battle with Huntington's disease drew attention after she was taunted online in 2010 by her grandmother's former neighbor has died.

Michigan Memorial Funeral Home in Flat Rock, which is handling arrangements, says Kathleen Edward died Wednesday.

One Facebook posting was of her doctored photo placed above a set of crossbones and another included a photo of her mother in the arms of the grim reaper. The conflict with the neighbor reportedly stemmed from a misunderstanding with the girl's family.

After the Facebook taunts appeared, people worldwide voiced their support of the young girl on Facebook and raised money to send her on a shopping spree in 2010, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Huntington's disease is a genetic, incurable brain disorder which, in children, can cause tremors, slow, rigid movements and seizures. Kathleen's mother also died from the degenerative disease in 2009, the newspaper reported. If one parent has Huntington's disease, a child has a 50 percent chance of getting it. Most people with Huntington's disease develop symptoms in their 40s or later, but when younger people get it, the disease tends to progress more quickly, according to the Mayo Clinic.

"She suffered with this disease for a while, and she never complained," her grandmother, Rebecca Rose, told the Detroit Free Press. "She was always happy, always smiling."

Arrangements were pending Thursday. In addition to Kathleen’s father and stepmother, she is survived by two sisters — Ashley, 6, and Maddison, 2, the Detroit Free Press said.