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Getting away with murder was so much easier back in the day—and I mean that in the most literal sense. Prior to the 20th century, solving a murder case was damned near impossible. These days, police have more tools than ever to help crack the case.
Due to the rise of forensic technology, DNA testing, and the ubiquitous presence of cameras, it's harder than ever before to commit a crime and avoid arrest. In the age of the internet, there's also another reason why criminals have a harder time.
As with almost any other thing imaginable, it's possible for crimes to go viral. When things go viral in the digital sphere, exposure comes more naturally, which makes it easier than ever for criminals to get caught.
Some crimes, for example, would probably never have even been solved, let alone notable, if they occurred 50 years ago; and though the internet is still relatively young in history, there have already been several murder cases that were made famous by the internet, and would probably definitely see a spot in the line up at the podcast The Trail Went Cold.
The Murder of Linda O'Keefe
Of all the murder cases made famous by the internet, this might be one of the only ones to be made famous by the police department in charge of its investigation. The case in question has been declared a "cold case" for over 20 years.
The story goes that, 45 years ago, a young girl by the name of Linda O'Keefe disappeared. After a search party was dispatched, her body was found in Back Bay. The case remained cold since then, though DNA evidence tied to the crime has recently surfaced.
California's Newport Beach Police Department decided to try to tell the girl's story in her voice, with the hash tag #LindasStory to help raise awareness to their 16,000-strong Twitter following.
Digitally-created sketches of the potential killers have been posted in hopes that someone may recognize Linda O'Keefe's murderers. Police officer Jennifer Manzella was credited with the viral campaign's concept.
Should the campaign reveal tips, this will be one of the very first cold cases to be solved thanks to the internet.
The Shooting of Robert Godwin
Robert Godwin was not the type of person who would hang out with the rough crowd; he was a mild-mannered senior citizen who had the misfortune of being a thug's chosen target.
The man who shot him, 37-year-old Steve Stephens, was proud of his ruthless and cold-blooded killing. He was so proud, he actually posted a video of the shooting to Facebook.
The video itself went viral and police went to work finding him. Like most other murder cases made famous by the internet, the video was enough evidence to get Stephens booked for murder.
Stephens probably realized that posting the video of the gutless killing wasn't that wise when he was cornered by police in Erie County, Pennsylvania. Upon realizing that he did not have a chance of staying free, he died via suicide by gunshot.
The Unluckiest Lottery Winner
Do you remember the name "Abraham Shakespeare?" If you do, then congrats. You might have been one of the many people who became obsessed with finding his killer.
In early 2009, a day laborer known as Abraham Shakespeare won $32 million in the Florida state lottery. Then, he was killed with no suspect to be mentioned aside from a financial advisor (and ex of Shakespeare's) named Dorice "Dee Dee" Moore.
When news hit, the internet went viral to find out who killed the lottery winner. The internet also felt like Moore was hiding something about the late Shakespeare; but unlike police, they were willing to get a little sketchy to find evidence.
Like many criminals, she decided it was time to skip town, all while trying to pretend that Shakespeare was alive. At one point, she even offered $50,000 to try to get someone to take the fall for the murder.
Moore then decided to go on a site called Websleuths to defend herself under a fake name. The site then looked at her IP address and it became clear that she was trying to throw off the investigation.
Within weeks, police uncovered that she had killed Shakespeare, stolen the money, taken it for herself, bought his house, and also bought herself several cars, including a Hummer.
She was sentenced to life in prison for her crime. The case itself has become a favorite among true crime scholars, even going so far as to get a movie on E!
The Fake Suicide Pact Killings
"I wonder what dying feels like."—Nadia Kajouji
Imagine how shocked you would be if you found out that someone you knew entered a suicide pact and followed through with it. Now, imagine how horrified you would be if you found out that the person who they entered the pact with didn't actually exist.
Such was the case with Celia Blay, a retired schoolteacher who spent her time in online counseling. The victim, 18-year-old Nadia Kajouji, had entered a pact with a young nurse known only as "Cami D."
Nadia met Cami on an online suicide forum. After one of Blay's clients mentioned the forum and Nadia, Blay decided to investigate, and quickly realized that Cami was a longtime member who was regularly urging people to kill themselves.
Soon, Blay uncovered that there was no "Cami D." Rather, it was the screen name of William Melchert-Dinkel—a married father of two who happened to work as a nurse.
She contacted the authorities, who cornered "Cami" at his Minnesota home. Melchert-Dinkel was sentenced to 360 days in prison, but the judgement was reversed due to First Amendment issues.
Let's be real though, he inadvertently murdered her.
What's more chilling about this is that William Melchert-Dinkel later faced another conviction for the exact same crime. Why he hasn't been charged for manslaughter or murder remains unexplained, especially since others that commit the same crime had similar charges pressed on them.
The 4Chan Killer
4chan is probably one of the least wholesome sites on the net, and to a point, it's unsurprising that there have been several murder cases and suicides linked to the site over its existence.
After a dispute, David Kalac decided to strangle his longtime girlfriend, Amber Coplin, to death. He then scrawled "dead" next to her driver's license and placed it near her head.
Adding more insult to injury, he wrote "bad news" on the window blinds and the phrase "she killed me first" on Coplin's bedroom wall. Then, he left her naked body there for her teenage son to find in their family home.
The avid 4chan user then posted on the forums /b/ page, bragging about the crime he just committed. He wrote:
"Turns out it's way harder to strangle someone to death than it looks on the movies."
Users on the forum immediately told him that he was faking it, and Kalac posted photos of the crime scene to prove he was serious. The images were reported to police, who then matched the surroundings to the evidence.
Right before he went on the run, Kalac posted one last warning to /b/:
"Check the news for Port Orchard, Washington, in a few hours. Her son will be home from school soon. He'll find her, then call the cops. I just wanted to share the pics before they find me."
Police chased after him, arrested him, and charged him with first degree murder. Due to the emotional toll he took on her family, Kalac was sentenced to 82 years in prison, with no parole.
The Slenderman Slayings
“Many people do not believe Slender Man is real. [We] wanted to prove the skeptics wrong.”
Perhaps one of the most bizarre murder cases that were made famous by the internet also had ties to 4chan. Oddly enough, this murder also has the dubious honor of being one of the only murders that was directly caused by the internet.
Rather than being tied to 4chan's /b/ forum, it was most closely tied to 4chan's /x/ forum—a forum dedicated to paranormal activity and ghost stories.
On /x/, anonymous users began an internet legend known as Slenderman. Slenderman, as horror fans can tell you, is an entity that is tall, thin, faceless, and wears a black suit. The legend's creators then had an entire storyline dedicated to it.
For a while, Slenderman was an internet meme that simply spawned some of the most terrifying creepypasta stories and internet series, like Marble Hornets. Like many horror stories, the Slenderman legend became a magnet for people who weren't quite stable.
Two 12-year-old girls started to cling onto the creepypasta legend. Both really believed it was true, despite it being common knowledge that it was a hoax. It could have been a simple cringey point in their lives, but no.
Rather than just grow out of it, the girls lured a friend into the woods and stabbed her 19 times. The victim somehow survived, and crawled to the side of a road where she was discovered.
While the victim didn't die, this was still an attempted murder worthy of note—and the courts treated it as such after the story went viral. The girls were sentenced to 25 years in a mental institution.
The Original Craigslist Killer
In many ways, Craigslist is a lot like 4chan.
Both sites are known for being online forums that protect identities, and both have their fair share of scandal associated with them. Unlike 4chan, Craigslist is known for being a more commerce-based forum that makes meetups and job recruiting possible as well.
Sadly, the "meetup" aspect of Craigslist is what caused many murders and robberies to become possible. Perhaps one of the most shocking Craigslist-related crimes to go viral involved the original Craigslist killer.
During the early 2000s, sex workers throughout the New York City area were terrified for their lives. A serial killer was targeting them using Craigslist's Casual Encounters section—and no one knew who it was.
After video surveillance caught a Boston University medical student by the name of Philip Markoff leaving a hotel room where a deceased body was found, police tracked him down and discovered belongings that belonged to several other slain women.
The reveal of the serial killer's identity shocked a huge span of people, including his then-fiancée, Megan McAllister. He was forced to stay in jail as he awaited trial, but never quite made it to court.
He died in prison, via suicide by bloodletting and suffocation, shortly after he wrote a cryptic message to his ex-fiancée in his jail cell.
The Keli Lane Mistrial
Keli Lane, from New South Wales, was put in cuffs and accused of killing her two-year-old child. Lane was then sentenced to 18 years in prison for the crime. The case seemed open and shut—until it wasn't.
A three-part documentary led by investigative reporter Caro Meldrum-Hanna showed that Lane's case was one filled with sexism, incorrect facts, and speculation.
Everyone who watched Exposed: The Case of Keli Lane became engrossed in finding out who really killed the young child, and helping Keli Lane gain freedom.
A Facebook group started by an associate at ABC became dedicated to the mystery at hand. Within days, over four million people joined in the search, and found that the judge didn't actually believe the burden of proof was sufficient for a conviction.
There is now significant reason to believe Lane's case will be overturned. The investigation, which can be found at the Exposed ABC Facebook group, is ongoing.
Gypsy Blancharde's Facebook Testimonial
Ah, Facebook. It's the place where trashy drama seems to love to live, and this is even true when it comes to murder cases that were made famous by the internet.
One such 2015 murder case involved a disabled woman by the name of Gypsy Blancharde and her boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn.
Police arrested the two after Gypsy's mother, Dee Dee, died, and Gypsy went missing. The internet went crazy trying to search for Dee Dee's killer, as well as Gypsy. Unfortunately, this put a bad spin on things for the killers.
Law enforcement arrested the two after Gypsy had the bright idea of posting, "That bitch is dead," on her Facebook wall. The two also decided to steal her mother's money, framing the murder as the work of a random robber.
Not before long, Gypsy was also revealed to be faking her disabilities. It was then revealed that the Blanchardes were already under investigation for faking victimhood in Hurricane Katrina—an offense that neither pleaded guilty to.
Worse still, Dee Dee was actually a woman affected by Munchausen-by-Proxy Syndrome. This meant that she forcibly made Gypsy act sick as a way to gain sympathy and possibly financial support.
The police suspected Gypsy for a while, but it was confirmed after Godejohn agreed to kill Dee Dee at Gypsy's command. The two were both found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of 10 years in prison.
Oddly enough, word has it that Gypsy is "thriving" in a prison environment.
Lacey Spears, the Munchausen Mommy Blogger
Munchausen-by-Proxy, also known as Factitious Disorder Imposed by Another, is one of the most dangerous mental illnesses in the DSM-V, primarily because it causes mothers to attack innocent children. Children can't defend themselves, and in most cases, don't even know what's going on.
It's really shocking to think that a parent would willingly harm their child so that they could become more cared for by others. That's why several of the most shocking murder cases that were made famous by the internet involve this strange phenomenon.
Perhaps one of the most gut-wrenching stories on this list involves Lacey, Spears, a seriously sick woman who was an aspiring "mommy blogger" back in 2011.
In her blog, Spears would write about her son Garnett's many illnesses, as well as the untimely death of her soulmate, a police officer named Blake. The blog was supposed to catalogue her struggles as a mom with a sick child, but the reality was much more horrific.
There was no dead cop; Lacey lied to Garnett's real father and claimed the child wasn't him to keep the boy's father away. Moreover, Lacey was actually poisoning her son Garnett with salt as a way to keep him sick. Worse than that, she was using her son's sickness as a pawn to gain stardom, exhibiting one of the traits of a serial killer in the making.
After police investigated the lies, she was found guilty of murdering her child. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and has been rejected from appeals as recently as 2018.
When word got out about her lies, the crime went viral, and became the subject of several true crime productions. One woman called Christie Blake, commented on Lacey's post after the conviction:
"Lacey got pregnant on purpose. She told me she did. She wanted a son and she got what she wanted and destroyed him."