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The killer of a 17-year-old internet star was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison on Tuesday, in what is a key victory for the girl's grief-stricken family.
On the morning of July 14, 2019, police in Utica, New York responded to numerous calls reporting that Brandon Clark, 21, had just posted photos of a teenager’s dead body on social media. The first officer arrived on the scene to find Clark holding a knife and lying in a dead-end street near a tarp. When the officer approached him, Clark quickly slit his own throat and lay across the tarp, taking pictures of himself with his phone, according to a press release by the Utica Police Department.
Included in the pictures, lying under the tarp, was the body of Bianca Devins, a teenage Instagram influencer.
Devins was pronounced dead at the scene and Clark was rushed to a local hospital. He lived – and so did his gut-turning photos. Those images, which went viral on social media in the weeks after Devins’s murder, continue to haunt her family, as they said this week.
“Close your eyes as if you’re about to fall asleep. What do you see? Maybe you see nothing. Maybe you’re thinking about the day you had or the day you’ll be having tomorrow. I, on the other hand, see the horrific photo of Bianca,” Devins’s younger sister, Olivia Devins, said on Tuesday in a victim impact statement uploaded by the Law and Crime Network.
Following Devins’s death, numerous Instagram users posted on her feed after having set their profile pictures to the photos Clark took, Olivia said. She’s been forced to delete all social media accounts, and the photos continue to be sent to her, she told the court.
Adding to the traumatizing afterlife of those images, Clark’s trial has dragged on far longer and more painfully than anyone involved had anticipated.
Prosecutors initially celebrated when Clark pled guilty to second-degree murder in February 2020, as his plea would spare the court and Devins’s family from having to comb through the disturbing details of the incident, including a 10-minute video Clark took of himself murdering her, Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara told Oxygen.com at the time.
But in July, Clark requested to withdraw his guilty plea, saying his attorney had done a poor job, according to the Rome Sentinel.
The court denied Clark’s request in October, scheduling his sentencing for the following month, according to Syracuse.com. However, delays caused by the coronavirus led Clark’s sentencing to be pushed back to March 16, more than a year and a half after Devins’s murder, Judge Michael Dwyer said at Tuesday’s hearing.
Following emotional statements from Devins’s family, Clark expressed remorse while addressing the court on Tuesday.
“How do you meaningfully apologize for something so horrible and so irreversible? That’s the worst part. I can’t take it back. I want to, I would if I could. I would give my life for Bianca in a heartbeat if I could,” he said.
Judge Dwyer interrupted Clark partway through his apology to question him about his attempt to withdraw his guilty plea.
“It seemed like in the beginning, you were focused on the family, the pain you caused them. And somewhere in the interim, you started to focus on yourself. That is what was confusing to everyone. You were more worried about yourself than Bianca,” Dwyer said.
Dwyer sentenced Clark to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
Devins’s grandfather, Frank Williams, was unsatisfied with Clark’s statements, he said in a post-sentencing interview with WKTV.
“He had the opportunity not to do this crime and he chose to do it in a callous manner, posting her death photos, videotaping the murder. So his apologies are hollow,” he told the station.
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