Derek Medina’s was not the first Facebook confession, but it may have been the most graphic. At least a handful of others have posted online about killing someone, but this seems to be the first time anyone included a grisly photo of the corpse.
In December 2011, a middle-aged Indiana man posted that he’d shot dead his 19-year-old ex-girlfriend and her friend. He also announced his own death.
“someone call 911. three dead bodies at 3229 lima road fort wayne Indiana,” he wrote. “I’ve killed ryann, erin, and myself. People were warned not to f----- play me and ruin me. They didn’t listen. Sorry about your luck.”
Police found all three dead when they arrived.
Last April, a 28-year-old Vietnamese man posted a Facebook message confessing to killing his girlfriend of six years after she broke up with him, press reports said. The man, Dang Van Khuyen, reportedly surrendered to police in Ho Chi Minh City soon afterward.
The same month, San Diego police began investigating a possible murder confession that went viral after being posted anonymously on the popular website reddit.com. The post, by a user identified as “Narratto,” said, “My sister had an abusive meth addict boyfriend. I killed him with his own drugs while he was unconscious and they ruled it as an overdose,” news articles said.
Experts aren’t surprised that people are turning to social networking sites to confess shocking crimes.
“Social networks are becoming more and more a public place. We shouldn’t be terribly surprised that people would gather in that place and do what people do, which is some things that are extremely unseemly and unconscionable,” said Al Tompkins, senior faculty at The Poynter Institute, a journalism think-tank.
Medina shared prolifically on social media sites, from 143 YouTube videos chronicling everything from his basketball games to his boat trips, to numerous self-published e-books.
“It’s quite common for people to see online social media as an extension of their life,” Tompkins said.
But beyond the common tendency for over-sharing, social networking can be a powerful platform for violence.
“Facebook is a magnet for people who want to be seen,” Tompkins said. “Often people who do things that are criminal or violent want to be recognized for their violence.”
Posting a gruesome status or image intensifies the impact of the violent act, he said. “This is a way to victimize not only the victim but all who consume the photograph.”
Medina’s post may indicate a narcissistic personality disorder, according to Dr. Prakash Masand, a former psychiatrist at Duke University who directs a medical education website.
“In the most twisted way, that’s the ultimate form of grandiosity. You’re posting the conquest of a bizarre action you performed for the whole world to see on Facebook,” he said. “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Online confessions are rare, but accidentally incriminating oneself in a crime is becoming more common, said Lauri Stevens, who consults with law enforcement around the country on social media. Gang members often boast by posting photos of drugs and cash, and online communications can preserve evidence of harassment or crime-plotting.