TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Social Networking Sites & Murder

Slate ran an interesting/disturbing piece over the weekend about the online presences of various murderers.  The lede:

When 25-year-old Kimveer Gill went on a shooting spree last week at Montreal's Dawson College, killing one student and injuring 19 others before turning his shotgun on himself, reporters seeking to explain the man's homicidal snap mined a treasure trove on Gill's personal blog. "His name is Kimveer," he wrote of himself at "You will come to know him as Trench. You will come to know him as the Angel of Death. He is not a people person." His Web journal featured a photo of his hoped-for tombstone, featuring his name and an epitaph that read: "Lived fast, died young. Left a mangled corpse." Gill wrote, prophetically, that he wanted to die "like Romeo and Juliet—or in a hail of gunfire."

When 21-year-old Melinda Duckett, the Florida mother of a 2-year-old missing for almost four weeks now, shot herself two weeks ago, she left behind an elaborate personal journal on her Web page at, the massive online networking site. "I have had to fight to keep my son, whom I am extremely proud of," she wrote in one post. "Why can not anyone understand/ the burdens I hold within my hand/ Life can not be all fun for I/ so many issues that I have to hide," she posted in June. Police desperate for clues as to whether Duckett is involved in her baby's disappearance are poring over these journals.

And three weeks ago, in Hillsborough, N.C., 19-year-old Alvaro Castillo killed his father before a shooting spree at Orange High School. Castillo's MySpace page lists "handguns, shotguns and rifles" among his "general interests." Among his "pics" is one of him brandishing a pair of scissors as he appears ready to stab an unidentified young male in the head. "Attempted Murder," the caption reads. "Are you scared? Ha ha." Castillo lists his heroes as God, his mom, his dad, and his younger sister. The people he would like to meet one day include John Hinckley Jr., Tom Hanks, Michael Moore, and God.

Will victims' families sue MySpace and the like?  Obviously, there are huge problems with virtually every element of a negligence claim, most notably breach and proximate cause (see also the existing MySpace suit), but it's an interesting set of facts, and the story is well worth reading.

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