People are skipping the bar scene to meet potential significant others or one night stands and looking to online dating as the new way to pick people up. With the swipe of a finger, you can start a romance with someone you may have never met in your everyday life. And while some of these encounters turn into wedded romances, others unfortunately become murder mysteries.
The scariest online interactions used to come only from Craigslist, but now, with millions of strangers using sites and apps like Plenty of Fish, Tinder, Match.com, OKCupid, eHarmony, and Bumble, there are those that sign up with the sole purpose of taking advantage of real men and women looking for love. There are those low-level users who will take someone out only to dine and dash on them, leaving them with the bill. Yet, there are people who are scheming to rob, sexually assault, kidnap, or murder strangers who think they’re just going out on a date with someone they’ve been corresponding with online.
We’ve found 15 true crime stories of unsuspecting people looking for love who happened to come across devils in disguise. If these tales don’t serve warnings on online dating, we don’t know what will.
15. The Man Who Snapped
Lorraine Long wanted to fall in love again after her husband had died. She tested out online dating, and for the most part, it seemed to be going successfully for her. Then the 62-year-old woman met 57-year-old Robert Weisner. He was a romantic who said all the right things, but it didn’t take long for Lorraine to see his dark side. Things got so bad that she even filed a restraining order against him, and that didn’t sit well Weisner.
In 2010, Weisner took Lorraine to an isolated area in Arizona where he shot and killed her. Within 24 hours, he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He repeatedly swore that he was innocent, but later took a second-degree murder plea deal and is now serving out his 22-year sentence in prison.
14. Hit By A Car
29-year-old New York native Michael Sandy met 20-year-old Anthony Fortunato in an online chat room. The two men exchanged racy, sexually-charged emails before arranging to meet in October 2006 at a Brooklyn rest stop that was a known cruising location for gay men. What Michael didn’t expect was that Fortunato would be there with three other men who intended on robbing him of his marijuana. Michael was pulled from his car, and the men instantly began beating him. Michael was actually able to get up and run off while trying to call for help on his cell phone. He ran out onto the highway where the other men gave pursuit. One of the men caught up to Michael and punched him. The 29-year-old then stumbled back from the blow and was hit by a car. The men dragged him to the side of the road and went through his pockets.
Fortunato received seven to 21 years. Meanwhile, two of his accomplices John Fox and Ilya Shurov got 13 to 21 years and 17 years, respectively. Gary Timmons testified against his friends and received four years after taking a plea deal.
13. Stabbed To Death
On the surface, Graham Dwyer was a happily married man, architect, and father of three wonderful children. However, He had a sick and demented secret side as a sexual sadist who fantasized about stabbing a woman to death while sleeping with her.In 2007, he met chronically depressed Elaine O’Hara on a fetish website called Alt.com. O’Hara had attempted suicide multiple times and had been in and out of mental health facilities. The two eventually formed a relationship that involved violent sex and bondage. However, things fell apart but were rekindled again in 2011. In 2012 when Elaine was released from a mental hospital, Dwyer asked her to meet him up in the mountains. There he restrained her, gagged her, and stabbed her to death. It wasn’t until 2013 that her bones were found by a dog. Dwyer was sentenced to life in prison.
12. Man Who Just Wanted An Escort
Michigan software engineer Venkata Cattamanchi was looking for a little company. The 35-year-old Indian man went to backpage.com and met 23-year-old Jessica Ermatinger. In 2010, the two chatted and agreed to spend some time together at a local motel. First, the pair met up at a Wendy’s restaurant just to be on the safe side. Surely, Venkata had heard stories of men being busted by the cops for trying to order prostitutes online. After chatting for a bit, Venkata and Ermatinger made their way to the E-Z Rest Motel. Venkata was unaware that inside the room was another woman, Lynn Coggins, and two men, James Randle, 35, and Kevin Huffman, 28, all waiting to attack him. As soon as he arrived, he was robbed and shot in the back as he tried to run away. Randle and Huffman each received life sentences, Ermatinger got 20 years, and Coggins received 15 to 30 years.
11. The Dexter Wannabe
Mark Twitchell fancied himself to be the next great filmmaker, and in order to get the most realistic screenplay possible, he turned fantasy into reality. In 2008, he used Plenty Of Fish to lure Johnny Altinger out on a date by pretending to be a woman. When the victim went to meet this “woman” at “her” home, he went inside the garage where he was instead confronted by Twitchell, who killed him and dismembered his body. Twitchell then emailed Johnny’s friends and family as Johnny, telling them that he was away on a long trip to Costa Rica. They became suspicious and went to the police, who traced Johnny’s last whereabouts to the garage. Twitchell said he was inspired by the hit show “Dexter” about a serial killer with uncontrollable urges to kill. Twitchell was tried and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
10. Shot During Robbery
LaVar Watson thought that Christmas night was the perfect evening to meet Ashley LeVelle, a woman he’d been talking to via an online dating site. In 2011, the two met up at a local movie theater and decided to leave to see where the night would take them. LaVar got into Ashley’s vehicle, and she said she had to give her friend, Stevin Roopnarine, a ride. While Ashley was driving, Stevin was texting her that LaVar was “lame,” and he planned on robbing him. Ashley stopped the car as per Stevin’s request, and then Stevin shot LaVar four times. They dumped his body, took his wallet, and bought gas for the car. Ashley took a plea deal and was sentenced to 20 years. In 2016, however, Stevin was found not guilty — a verdict that justifiably upset LaVar’s friends and family.
9. Beaten To Death
This single mother of four took her chances on looking for love online. There, Sharon Siermans met Jason John Dinsley, a man whose past she was unfamiliar with. What Sharon didn’t know was that Dinsley was a career criminal with over 100 prior convictions, one of which was rape by knifepoint. She went on one date with him, but when he asked for a second, she politely declined. He didn’t take the rejection lightly, and one night in 2013, he broke into her home and used a cricket bat to beat her to death. Her four-year-old son was hiding not far away, listening to his mother die.
A female friend went by to see Sharon the following morning, and she found a terrified Aron who told her, “There was a big man last night and he bashed mommy with a bat. Mommy won’t wake up to give me any breakfast.” It was later revealed that Dinsley was on parole during the time of the murder. He was sentenced to 32 years.
8. Grandmother Dies After Giving Man $200,000
The disappearance of a grandmother has left investigators confused and police believing that she ran into foul play in Africa. After Jette Jacobs’s husband died, the widow became lonely. She turned to online dating sites for companionship, and there she met a 28-year-old Nigerian man named Jesse Orowo Omokoh. The two kept their online romance aflame for four years, and during that time, Jette lavished him with gifts and cash to the tune of $200,000. The two finally decided to met in person, so she packed her belongings and traveled to South Africa. Not long after Jette arrived, she was found in her rented apartment, dead from an overdose, her credit cards, cash, jewelry, and laptop missing from her home. Police questioned Omokoh, and upon investigation, found out that he had up to 32 fake aliases that he used online. After being questioned, he vanished to never be heard from again.
You crime buffs may remember this story from a Netflix documentary entitled TalHotBlond. It told the story of 46-year-old Thomas Montgomery who met an 18-year-old girl supposedly named Jessi, or “talhotblond,” online. Montgomery pretended to be an 18-year-old Marine who was in basic training, waiting to be deployed to Iraq. He finally revealed to “Jessi” who he really was, and while there was conflict, they continued to talk. Around that time, “Jessi” struck up an online romance with 22-year-old Brian Barrett, one on Montgomery’s coworkers. The two men both had feelings for the girl, but when “Jessi” tried moving on, Montgomery couldn’t take it. He shot and killed Brian in the parking lot where they worked. Investigators later found out that “Jessi” was really Mary Shieler, a mother in her 40s who was using her daughter’s photos to talk to younger men online.
6. The “Accidental” Death
It’s a mother’s worst nightmare to find out that her daughter had gone out on a date only to never to return home. That was the case for 28-year-old Ashley Pegram who met 20-year-old Edward Bonilla on the dating app Meet Me. The two went on a date, but Ashley didn’t make it home afterward. Police investigated her disappearance and found traces of blood in Bonilla’s trunk. Eventually Ashley’s body was located abandoned in a wooded area.
Bonilla said that Ashley had become drunk that night and had gotten out of his car to use the bathroom. He claimed he had accidentally hit her with his car and that that had made her almost violently upset. Then, when he was trying to restrain her, she died in his arms, and he decided to place a plastic bag over her head because she was bleeding and claimed it was all an accident. He was found guilty of Ashley’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.
5. Stomped To Death
In 2015, young mother Nicole White hopped online to test out a dating site. There she met Jonathan Daniel Harris. The two talked and arranged to go out on a date in June of that year. The 26-year-old mom of two immediately went missing, and when Nicole’s mother didn’t hear from Nicole following her date, she reported her daughter missing to police.
The night of their outing, Nicole and Harris went out to a bar and left together. Police believe that they went to Harris’s home where he beat and stomped her to death. He then wrapped her body in a tarp and then took her to a wooded area where he dropped her body into a ravine. Her badly decomposed body was found two weeks later. He pleaded guilty to murder and assault charges and was sentenced to more than 26 years in prison.
4. Buried Alive
Adding to the list of the worst first dates ever, a diabetic 25-year-old French woman named Mina El Houari met a Moroccan man on Facebook. The two exchanged flirtatious messages for months before they made plans to meet up and see if their online romance could go further than a few keystrokes and winky faces. In Spring of 2014, she flew all the way to Morocco to meet him, and they had their first date at his house. While there, she lapsed into a diabetic coma and passed out. The man freaked out thinking that this woman he just met had died in his home, and wanting to avoid being accused of being at fault for her death, he buried her in his garden. Unfortunately Mina wasn’t dead, but she did end up dying from being buried alive.
3. The Deadly Ex
Break-ups can be tough pills to swallow, but take it from us, if your ex was a jerk, just stream Beyoncé tracks while poking pins into a Voodoo doll of your former lover. Don’t become Carol Kemp. She met her beau, 44-year-old Martin Rusling, on an online dating site. However, the romance didn’t last, and one night in late 2011, the two ended up arguing about Kemp moving in with Martin. He told her no and eventually broke up with her, but instead of storming out and sending drunken midnight texts, she stabbed him twice in the heart with a kitchen knife. There was evidence that the two had fought as Martin’s face was covered in scratches, and his chain had been ripped from his neck. Kemp’s attorney’s tried to say that her history of self harm and abuse was a factor. She was given a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.
2. Strangled To Death
In 2015, 44-year-old mother Usha Patel lost her life at the hands of a man whom she had met through an online dating agency called Oasis. She invited 35-year-old Miles Donnelly over to her home for a date where they drank alcohol, but Usha didn’t know that Donnelly had a history of becoming violent when he’s intoxicated. Things took a turn for the worse, and Donnelly unleashed an attack on Usha, beating her uncontrollably on her face and strangling her. He then took a large bread knife and stabbed her in the stomach 13 times and then fled the scene, leaving some of his clothes, his keys, and a photo of his daughter behind. Usha’s five-year-old son was sleeping in the next room. Donnelly hid at his neighbor’s home for days before police found him. He had attacked his neighbor, too, for rejecting his advances. He was sentenced to life in prison.
1. A Lovelorn Father
Amateur boxer Adam Hilarie connected with an attractive woman named Hailey Bustos on Plenty Of Fish in August of 2016. The young father thought that he had made a connection with her and asked her out on a date. Everything was going well, so Adam invited Bustos back to his apartment for a nightcap. According to investigators, they believe that Bustos’s plan the entire time was to rob Adam. He took Bustos home after their date was over, but she returned to Adam’s house later. This time, she had Andre Warner, Joshua Ellington, and Gary Gray with her. They broke in, and after struggling with Adam in the kitchen, investigators say that Warner pulled out a gun. Adam begged for his life and told them he had a five-year-old daughter, but Warner shot him in the head anyway. The group has been charged with conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery with a firearm/deadly weapon, and first-degree murder.
Sources: Sun UK, USA Today, Crimefeed, CBC