We all know that the Internet is fundamentally a fantastic invention. It enables us to learn languages, hone different skills, access information from all periods of time and all places on the earth, and communicate with pretty much anyone in the world. We rely on it for school work, college work and in the workplace, and it is difficult for most to imagine day-to-day life without it.
However, as is the case with all major innovations, the Internet has its flaws. It is a place where one’s actions can be anonymous, and thus far easier to carry out than they would otherwise be. People can use the Internet to hide behind in order to be hateful or damaging, turning it into a toxic environment. There is also the danger of the level of dependency on being online, particularly concerning the younger generation; having grown up with it their entire lives, it is easy for teenagers and children to struggle hugely with not having access to the Internet.
Even more harrowing are the amount of killings that have occurred due to some sort of Internet altercation. A particularly notorious story currently is that of the two twelve year old girls who attacked their friend with intent to kill, stating that they did it in order to please the Internet myth Slender Man. The amount of romantic disputes that begin on social media sites such as Facebook, MySpace etc. and then escalate dramatically in real life is astounding, but Internet-related murders also often occur as a result of the killer having a ‘safe’ place to set themselves up as trustworthy, or deem themselves invincible. This list counts ten of the most high-profile killings involving the Internet.
10. The ‘Craigslist killer’
At number ten is the murder committed by Philip Markoff, who is more commonly known as ‘the Craigslist killer’ and whose actions spawned a film of the same name. The accused found his victim, Julissa Brisman, through the site Craigslist, on which she was advertising erotic massages. The killer led a chillingly deceptive double life, being engaged and a medical student at Boston University. Markoff had had no previous convictions before being charged with murder and committed suicide in August 2010, a year after his initial arrest, while awaiting his charge in the Nashua Street jail.
9. The MySpace love triangle murder
At number nine is an extreme case of the teenage love triangle, which resulted in the murder of Sarah Ludemann by Rachel Wade. In April of 2009, three Florida teenagers became involved in an ultimately deadly two-timing scenario: Sarah Ludemann, then aged eighteen, discovered that her boyfriend Josh Camacho was cheating on her with his ex, Rachel Wade, nineteen. After numerous taunts via text message and MySpace from Wade, Ludemann drove over to her house with a view to putting an end to the upset, but was confronted by Wade wielding a knife. Ludemann was stabbed in the shoulder and in the heart, and died within an hour. Wade claimed self defence and was sentenced to twenty-seven years in prison under charges of second-degree murder in 2010.
8. The social network exhibitionist
Another teen murder is at number eight, this time that of Elizabeth Olten at the hands of Alyssa Bustamante, both from Missouri. While Bustamante was only fifteen at the time of the murder, still more shocking was the age of her victim; Olten, Bustamante’s next door neighbour, was nine years old. Bustamante’s presence on her social media accounts may have hinted at her troubled state of mind; on her Facebook account she had posted photos showing scars on her wrists from previous suicide attempts and miming holding a gun to her head, while her Youtube account listed “killing people” as one of her hobbies. had closer attention been paid and action been taken the murder could perhaps have been prevented. Bustamante strangled and stabbed Olten in 2009, and in 2012 was sentenced to life imprisonment with possibility of parole for second-degree murder.
7. Twitter gang war murder
At number seven is the alleged murder of Joseph Coleman by rival Chicago gang members. Coleman (or ‘Lil JoJo’, his rap alias) had been involved in a public row with the The Black Disciples gang via Twitter. It’s believed that Coleman’s death was fuelled – and possibly instigated – by the Twitter-based war. Coleman tweeted his location just hours before he was fatally shot. Twitter was further intertwined with the murder when rapper and rival Chief Keef took to the social networking site with a message poking fun at the deceased (signing off with #LMAO) although he later claimed his account was hacked…
6. MySpace suicide threat-turned-murder
At number six is another teenage killer, fifteen year old Hughstan Schlicker, who murdered his father over his not being allowed to use the Internet. Schlicker told detectives that his father’s decision and his consequent lack of access to the Internet, specifically the social networking site MySpace, left him depressed. After his father imposed the ban, Schlicker threatened to commit suicide in front of him, but ultimately decided instead to first murder his father and planned to then commit suicide. After the murder, which happened in 2008, Schlicker was arrested under the charge of first-degree murder.
5. Murder over Facebook relationship status
At number five is the case of Hayley Jones, murdered by her partner Brian Lewis in 2007 over changing her Facebook relationship status to ‘single’. The couple’s problems began when Lewis was made redundant and began to take an abnormal interest over Jones’ activities on the social networking site, which she attempted to hide from him. The pair’s relationship had essentially entirely broken down when Jones changed her status to ‘single’, which Lewis told police officers he had no problem with, but which was apparently the catalyst for her strangulation. Lewis denied the murder, but evidence including that of his friends and his children, who found their mother’s body, led to him receiving a sentence of life imprisonment.
4. Craigslist murder of a pregnant mother
The horrifying case of the murders committed by Oregano-based Korena Roberts in 2009 is at number four. Roberts, twenty-nine at the time of the killing, met her victim Heather Snively, then twenty-one, on Craigslist, where Roberts had placed an advert looking for baby clothes. Snively was pregnant at the time, and Roberts claimed to be pregnant also, although this was later proven untrue. Snively responded to Roberts’ ad and the two became friends. After they had known each other a few weeks, Roberts and her boyfriend were found at Roberts’ home attempting to revive a baby which was ultimately discovered to have been cut out of Snively’s womb, the process of which neither Snively nor her baby survived. It is assumed that Roberts had hoped to pass the baby off as her own. She was sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole in 2010.
3. MySpace parricide
At number three is a terrible combination of star-crossed teenage lovers and parricide; Erin Caffey’s parents’ murders were instigated by Caffey and her boyfriend, Charles Wilkinson. Caffey’s family was extremely religious and when she began seeing Wilkinson aged sixteen her parents weren’t pleased. Their disapproval of the relationship was intensified by their allegedly finding derogatory messages toward Caffey written on Wilkinson’s MySpace profile, at which time Caffey’s parents told Caffey to split up with Wilkinson. Caffey was so devastated at the idea of their break-up that she instead devised a plan with Wilkinson to kill her parents and, ultimately, her brothers. Wilkinson, along with his best friend and his girlfriend, snuck into Caffey’s house one night, killed her mother and brothers with a gun and a sword and left her father for dead, although he survived. All involved in the killings, carried out in 2008, were sentenced to life in prison.
2. Craigslist satanic killer
At number two is a killing (or possibly multiple killings) involving a satanic cult. Nineteen year old Pennsylvania-based Miranda Barbour and her husband Elyett have definitely committed at least one murder together, that of Troy LaFerrara, whom they attracted with an advert on Craigslist promising companionship and conversation. Barbour claims that the killing was prompted by the victim offering Barbour, whom LaFerrara believed to be sixteen, $100 dollars for sex. The husband and wife strangled and stabbed LaFerrara in their car, and are currently awaiting trial. Miranda claims to have killed numerous others in a Satanic cult-influenced murdering spree, but this is doubted by authorities.
1. ‘Slender Man’ (attempted murder)
Not strictly a killing but profoundly shocking nevertheless, at number one is the most notorious internet-related attack of the moment; an attempted murder of a twelve year old girl by two of her friends. The two, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, admitted to acting according to their belief in the internet phenomenon of Slender Man – a character dreamt up on horror site ‘Creepypasta’ – thinking that the only way to appease him was to kill somebody. They have been charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide and stand to be tried as adults. The two girls have been portrayed by the media as prime examples of vulnerable and impressionable children over-exposed to too much at too young an age, due to the seemingly omnipresent power of the internet.