Saturday, May 18, 2019

List Series: 10 Cases with a Social Media Trail

In today's world, it is not terribly uncommon for both victims and criminals involved in serious crimes to have social media accounts. Certain victims who were quite active on social media have posts up until the point of their disappearance/death. Certain criminals have used social media to deflect suspicion away from them; while others have used social media to confess to their crimes. Below is a list of 10 cases with a social media trails. Some are resolved, some are unsolved, and all provide a chilling reminder of a crime.

10. The Disappearance and Presumed Murder of Alexis Murphy

Alexis Murphy left her family’s Nelson County, Virginia home en route to Lynchburg, Virginia on August 3rd, 2013. The 17 year-old was preparing to take her senior portraits, and she had a hair appointment in the Lynchburg area that evening. Alexis posted her final tweet, “burg bound !” around 5:04pm that evening. She was later spotted at a gas station in Lovingston, Virginia around 7:15pm. Alexis never made it home that night and was never seen or heard from again. Her family reported her missing later that evening when she did not return home. The FBI joined the case two days later.

On August 11th, 2013, 48 year old Randy Allen Taylor was arrested on kidnapping charges in Alexis’ case. Investigators were lead to Taylor after they found that he, too, was at that gas station in Lovingston on the evening of August 3rd. In fact, surveillance footage shows Taylor opening the door to the gas station convenience store and Alexis walking in. The footage shows that the two did not speak and it did not appear that they knew each other at the time of this interaction. Additionally, investigators found that Alexis’ final cell phone pings were located close to Taylor’s camper located off US 29 near Lovingston. When investigators first questioned Taylor on August 5th, he denied knowing Alexis and claimed he was elsewhere on the night of the 3rd; the footage from the gas station must’ve simply been mis-marked. The next day, on August 6th, Alexis’ car was found parked in a movie theater in Charlottesville. Surveillance footage shows the car arriving there around 10pm on August 4th, but the images are too dark to make out the driver. However, witnesses said they saw Taylor at a nearby Applebee’s that night. Several people apparently observed him looking for a cab for a ride home. When investigators searched Taylor’s camper several days later, they found the t-shirt Taylor was seen wearing in the surveillance video stuffed under the couch. It was covered in bloodstains, and had long, dark hair extensions and artificial eye lashes wrapped up inside it. DNA tests later proved that the blood belonged to Alexis.

Despite Alexis’ body not being found yet, prosecutors charged Taylor with her murder on January 6th, 2014. He plead not guilty to both kidnapping and murder and went to trial on May 1st, 2014. Just a little over a week later on May 8th, Taylor was found guilty of murder in the commission of an abduction and abduction with intent to defile by a Nelson County jury. He was sentenced to two life-terms. 

Alexis' remains were finally found in December 2020. [read more]

9. The Murder-Suicide of Danielle Morse and Kevin Kopper

Danielle Morse (25) was shot and killed by her boyfriend Kevin Kopper (31) on January 16th, 2019. The two lived in an apartment together in Hamburg, New York. During the early morning hours of January 16th, Kevin called the Hamburg police and said that he had shot his girlfriend and planned to shoot himself. When police arrived at their apartment, they knocked on the door. Immediately after, they heard the sound of another gunshot. Police broke down the door and found the body of Danielle in the apartment’s kitchen. In the adjacent bedroom, they found Kevin’s body as well. He had shot himself as soon as police knocked on the door.

According to Danielle’s friends, the couple had only been together for a little under a year before the incident, and they had only lived in their apartment for a few months. At this time, it is unclear what led to the shootings. However, both Danielle and Kevin posted content on Facebook within 24 hours before the shooting that now appears incredibly eerie. About a day before she was killed, Danielle wrote “I need to get out of this house” in a Facebook post. Kevin updated his profile picture to an image of him holding a gun…the same gun that he later used to shoot Danielle and himself. [read more]

8. The Disappearance of Larissa Sam

Larissa Sam (23) has been missing from Indianapolis, Indiana since June 21st, 2015. At the time of her disappearance, Larissa worked as a dancer at a club located south of Indianapolis. She left work around 1am on the morning of June 21st and headed to her uncle Rusty Wagner’s house to have a few drinks. While there, Larissa posted on her Facebook page that she was looking for a “texting buddy”—and she included her phone number on the post. Larissa left Rusty’s home around 4:30am, and sometime after that, she disappeared. Her parents reported her missing after she did not show up at their house to pick up her 4 year old son. Shortly after, police found Larissa’s car with a flat tire near an abandoned home in Mars Hill. Her purse, phone, wallet, and keys were found inside the car. The FBI got involved in the case early on, after a Facebook post suggested that Larissa was kidnapped and taken to another country. However, after investigating that lead, the FBI determined that it was fake. Since then, a lot of strong potential leads in Larissa’s case have been ruled out as well. Many were concerned about the fact that Larissa vanished shortly after posting her phone number to Facebook, but the FBI said there was no evidence that somebody responding to her Facebook post had kidnapped her. Another theory was that Larissa had been followed by somebody she met at the strip club where she worked. However, the FBI said there was no evidence of that either. They have also ruled out sex trafficking and numerous people that have been interviewed—but they have not publicly identified anyone they have ruled out.

Very little has been said about Larissa’s uncle Rusty, who was the last known person to see her. There also has not been any information about the circumstances under which Larissa left his home. In fact, most of the significant information about Rusty has been revealed through online sleuthing. An admin on a Help Find Larissa Sam Facebook page posted a screenshot of records that confirm that Rusty was convicted of rape in 1989. A poster on Websleuths found an online obituary that confirms that Rusty passed away in March 2017. Comments on his Facebook page state that he died by suicide. Despite all of these tragic and odd twists, authorities have not commented on whether or not they believe he was involved in Larissa’s disappearance. Her case remains unsolved. [read more]

7. The Disappearance of Cassie Compton

Cassie Compton vanished at the age of 15 on September 14th, 2014. Prior to her disappearance, Cassie was spending a lot of time at the home of her friend Hunter Smith, because she was unhappy with her situation at home. Cassie's mother, Judy Compton, was engaged to a man named Brandon Rhodes, and Cassie and Brandon did not get along. On the day she vanished, Hunter dropped Cassie off at her Stuggart, Arkansas home and observed her walking right passed Brandon without either of them making any attempt to speak to each other. According to Cassie’s mother Judy, Cassie left the home again around 6:55pm after telling announcing that she would be back soon. She has never been seen or heard from again.

About a month after her disappearance, Cassie's half-sister posted the above message on Facebook, which alluded to Cassie having some sort of secret which might have lead to her disappearance. She wrote, "Baby girl I’m putting the pieces together daily. I have a feeling I know what happened to you. Tonight I broke my silence and told your secret. I love you and I only told because I hoped it would help. I love you baby sister. STAY STRONG and remember you are loved. I know someone has taken you and I will find out who. I WILL help you if you reach out to me baby girl. You are beautiful you are smart and most of all you are important to many people”. There has since been very little information on the ‘secret’ and/or if it had anything to do with Cassie’s disappearance. However, both Brandon and Judy were considered persons of interest when Cassie was first reported missing. Many rumors have gone around about Brandon’s behavior towards Cassie and Judy’s other children, however none of these rumors have been confirmed. Judy reportedly ended her relationship with Brandon about a month after Cassie’s disappearance, and then later told news reporters that Brandon was controlling and that she believed Cassie would come home if she knew that Brandon was out of the picture.

Despite Judy’s statements, investigators do not believe that Cassie disappeared on her own accord. She remains missing today and the FBI is investigating her case. [read more]

6. The Murder of Erica Gould
click to enlarge

Erica Gould (30) was murdered by her ex-husband Jameal Gould (35) during Easter Sunday on April 1st, 2018. Jameal was on the run for three days before Salisbury Police Department officials located and arrested him. While he was on the run, he posted the above message on Facebook as an admission of guilt.

Jameal is the father of one of Erica's three children. The two of them had recently finalized their divorce before her death. That Easter Sunday morning, the two reportedly got into an argument at her Salisbury, Maryland home. Jameal angrily left, but returned later that afternoon—armed with a gun—to continue the argument. This time, Jameal arrived in the midst of an Easter celebration amongst Erica’s family and friends. Witnesses state that Jameal forced his way into the house. When Erica saw him, she ran upstairs to the master bedroom and locked the door. Jameal began to kick down the door, so Erica climbed out of the bedroom window onto the roof over the front porch. As she sat there, Jameal fired several shots out of the window and then fled the scene. First responders found Erica laying on top of the roof after suffering multiple gunshot wounds. She was transported to the hospital, where she later died.

Jameal was initially charged with first and second degree murder, home invasion, first and second degree assault and false imprisonment. Months later, it was announced that he now faces more than 15 charges:  1st and 2nd degree murder; home invasion; two counts of 1st degree assault;  two counts of 2nd degree assault; two counts of use of a firearm during a violent crime; possession of a firearm with a felony conviction; 3rd degree burglary; two counts of reckless endangerment; illegal possession of a firearm; attempted 1st and 2nd degree murder, and handgun on a person. [read more]

5. The Murder of Emma Walker

Emma Walker (16) and William 'Riley' Gaul (18) were in a long-term relationship that Emma decided to end in November 2016. Emma's family members did not approve of her relationship with him, and she also felt that the two of them were in different places in life. By that point, Riley was a freshman at Maryville College in Tennessee, while Emma was still a high school student in Knox County. Emma was ready to move on after ending the relationship, but Riley as unwilling to let her go. While home on a break from school, Riley attempted several attempting-seeking tactics in order to lure Emma back to him--some of which almost worked. Two days before her murder, Emma attended a party, during which she began to receive texts from an anonymous number that stated, "Go to your car with your keys. Go alone … I’ve got someone you love. If you don’t comply I will hurt them." The anonymous person also told Emma that said person had been dumped in a ditch near the house where the party was being held. Emma and a few friends walked outside and found Riley laying facedown in the ditch. At that point, Emma's friends began to suspect that Riley was behind the texts himself. 

On November 21st, 2016, Emma was asleep in her bedroom at her family's home. Riley, equipped with his grandfather's gun, approached the house and fired two shots at Emma's bedroom wall from the outside. Bullets traveled through the wall and hit Emma in the head, killing her. As news about Emma's death began to travel around town, Riley feigned grief over the incident. He posted the above tweet to his Twitter page accompanied with a picture of the two of them together. Riley also changed his Twitter bio,“Living everyday through Emma Walker. I love you beautiful and I know you’re in a better place now.” Once he was arrested, Riley pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges and claimed that he fired the shots as another attention-seeking scheme. He claimed his plan was to fire the shots at Emma's bedroom wall to scare her, and then show up again later as the "hero". The jury did not buy his defense, and he was ultimately sentenced to life in prison with a possibility of parole after a minimum of 51 years. [read more] [also on the 'Cases of Breakup Violence' list]

4. The Murder of Kaylah Hodges

Kaylah Hodges (20) was murdered by her ex-boyfriend Ethan Reid (23) on October 3rd, 2016. Kaylah and Ethan had a 7 month-old daughter together, but they were no longer together as a couple. Kaylah ended the relationship after Ethan was allegedly abusive. However Kaylah was still on good terms with Ethan's mother, April. At the time of her death, Kaylah and her daughter lived with April at her home in Scottsville, Kentucky. 

On the next of Kaylah's murder, Ethan posted the above messaged on Facebook before he showed up at his mother’s residence armed with a rifle. April, who was asleep at the time, was awoken by Kaylah telling her that Ethan had entered the house and that he was armed. April attempted to speak to Ethan as he stood by the front door. He ended up shoving his mother out of the house. April then ran back inside and grabbed Kaylah and Ethan’s infant daughter and was once again shoved against the wall by Ethan as he followed Kaylah out of the house as Kaylah tried to flee. Before she could get away, Ethan shot her in the back and she collapsed.

By this point, a neighbor was able to intervene; said neighbor disarmed and detained Ethan until law enforcement arrived. Once they arrived, Ethan was arrested, and Kaylah was taken to the hospital where she later passed away. Ethan was ultimately charged with first-degree murder after it was revealed that he wrote the Facebook post confessing to what he planned to do shortly before the incident. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. [read more] [also on the 'Cases of Breakup Violence' list]

3. The Murder of Skylar Neese
Rachel Shoaf & Shelia Eddy (left), Skylar Neese (right)

On January 3rd, 2013, Shelia Eddy (16) posted the image on the left to her Twitter account, accompanied with the caption "FINALLLLY GOT TO SEEE @_racchh <3". Unbeknownst to Shelia, Rachel (16) had confessed that the two of them lured their best friend Skylar Neese (16) into the woods and stabbed her to death months earlier, on July 6th, 2012. Skylar was reported missing by her parents after she failed to return home to their Star City, West Virginia home after sneaking out on the evening of July 6th to joy ride/smoke marijuana with Shelia and Rachel. In the months that followed, Shelia and Rachel feigned concern for Skylar and acted as if they had no clue where she was. 

However, by January 2013, Rachel had cracked under the pressure of keeping this secret. She was sent to receive inpatient mental health treatment. Afterwards, she immediately confessed to the murder of Skylar--implicating Shelia in the process and naming her as the mastermind. After implicating Shelia in the crime, Morgantown, WV police asked Rachel to meet with Shelia while secretly wearing a wire/microphone. Police listened in on their conversation in hopes of hearing Shelia incriminate herself in the killing. Not knowing that Rachel had confessed OR that she was rigged with a microphone, Shelia snapped this selfie of her and Rachel and posted it to her Twitter account. This is the last known photo of the two girls together before they were subsequently arrested for Skylar’s murder.

Both girls are currently incarcerated at Lakin Correctional. Rachel's Twitter account has been taken down, however Shelia's Twitter is still up. [also on the 'Friendships Turned Fatal' and 'Dangerous Duos' list] 

2. The Murder of Hannah Truelove

Hannah Truelove (16) posted the above tweets just days before she was found murdered in the woods near her mother's Gainesville, Georgia apartment on August 24th, 2012. She posted the above photograph to her Facebook page on August 22nd, just a day before she was killed. Hannah spent that evening around hanging out with some of her fellow teenage friends who lived in the same complex. She was last seen sitting at the neighborhood picnic tables with her friends around 7:30pm. Hannah never returned home as planned. By 10pm, after her mother was unable to locate or contact her, Hannah was reported missing.

Around 24 hours later, a man taking a walk through the woods near the apartment complex spotted Hannah’s body buried under leaves. She had been brutally stabbed multiple times. The case was immediately shifted to a homicide investigation. Many people believed that her Twitter account contained clues about her killer. It is unclear who her tweets are directed at, however, according to Hall County Sheriff Sgt. Dan Franklin, the tweets are likely not related to Hannah’s murder. In a news story covering Hannah’s case from 2016, Franklin told reporters, “all that stuff was investigated and looked into and it was more just teenage drama type stuff.” Despite this, the account still leaves behind a chilling trail documenting Hannah's final days.

Hannah's case remains unsolved to this day. [read more]

1. The Murder of Sarah Goode

Sarah Goode (21) posted the above two images to her Instagram account on June 6th, 2014. That day, Sarah left her On that evening, Sarah left her 4 year-old daughter with her mother so she could attend a party in Medford, New York. Sarah was quite a busy mother, so she was excited to have a night out. While there, she posted the above picture (on the left) of her smiling and enjoying the party with her friends. Per social media, it appeared Sarah was having a great time. However, her family members began to worry when she failed to show up for her nephew's birthday the following day. After an unsuccessful search for her, Sarah’s family reported her missing on June 8th, 2014. Two days later, Sarah’s car was found abandoned about a mile from her home. Inside of it, investigators spotted a bloody handprint and numerous other blood stains. This discovery prompted a massive search by volunteers in the surrounding area. On the evening of June 12th, 2014, a searcher found Sarah’s half-naked body in a wooded area located less than a mile away. An autopsy revealed that she had been raped and stabbed over forty times.

Over a month later, 19 year-old Dante Taylor was arrested and charged with raping and murdering Sarah. Taylor attended that same party in Medford on the night of June 6th, and cell phone records revealed that he and Sarah had been communicating via calls and texts earlier that day. Additionally, forensic testing revealed that the bloody handprint in Sarah’s car belonged to Taylor.

It is believed that Sarah’s untimely death was the result of a sexually-motivated attack. At the trial, the prosecution said that Taylor was angry that night because Sarah had rejected his sexual advances. As a result, Taylor dragged Sarah out the the woods, raped her, beat her so hard that a piece of metal was found lodged in her skull, and stabbed her to death. The jury found Taylor guilty on all counts and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In October 2017, he was found dead in his jail cell. His cause of death has not been released. [read more]

For further information about the Skylar Neese case...

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