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Crime News

The Internet Has Helped Many Solve Cold Case Crimes And Murders — Here's How

Amateur detective work is getting more high-tech with better results as the internet and web companies like Xfinity continue to improve. 

By Caitlin Schunn

Amateur detectives have been in pop culture for decades (think Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys!), but the invention of the internet has paved the way for more Ordinary Joes to help to solve crimes. With web services like the next-generation Xfinity 10G network, which provides internet with ultra-fast speed, reliability, and seamless connectivity for your devices at home and beyond, being a sleuth can now often be as easy as a few keystrokes and searches.

For example, Netflix’s documentary, “Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer” is one of the more sickening stories about a Canadian animal-abuser who turned into a murderer. He was eventually identified and arrested thanks to some internet detectives at home.

Luka Rocco Magnotta Ap

Luka Magnotta, born with the name Eric Clinton Newman, first became viral after posting a video with the title “1 Boy 2 Kittens” on YouTube in Dec. 2010, according to Oxygen.com. In the video, a man with a hidden face put two kittens in a vacuum-sealed bag, then turned on the vacuum, suffocating the kittens. The video sparked international outrage, as people on the internet tried to figure out who and where the kitten killer was.

"John Green" and Deanna Thompson were two of the people using the Internet to track every possible lead they could on the kitten killer, Oxygen.com reported. They looked for clues within the animal abuse videos, analyzing wall sockets in the background to try to determine where the cat killer was located and attempting to track down where a bed comforter, also seen in the background, was sold. They were able to figure out the culprit was Magnotta.

The internet sleuths were even able to track him down and find where he lived by using Google Map Street View and GPS data embedded in a photo. It was useful information to the Toronto police, who figured out Magnotta had recently lived there but moved away, sparking an international manhunt for the man who didn't just murder animals, but had also killed a young man named Jun Lin.

The internet was ultimately Magnotta’s very undoing. He was arrested in Germany while Googling news stories about himself, according to Oxygen.com. He was convicted of first-degree murder, amongst other charges, and sentenced to life in prison.

But that's not only the case where internet sleuths saved the day. One woman, Ellen Leach, has single-handedly solved at least eight cases around the country due to her internet detective work, according to the Associated Press.

“That’s kind of unheard of in the web-sleuth community,” Deborah Halber, the author of “The Skeleton Crew,” a book with each chapter describing a different web sleuth, told the outlet.

Halber said Leach is “a part of a minority of people who are actually spending the time trying to identify the missing with unidentified remains.”

Leach matched a skull found in a bucket of cement at a Missouri truck stop in 2005 to that of Iowa antiques dealer Gregory May, according to the Washington Times. She matched May’s photo on a missing persons website to a clay reconstruction, as she saw similarities in May’s eyebrows, hairline, and nose-to-chin profile. The remains were identified just two days before May’s roommate, Douglas DeBruin, went to trial for May’s murder, helping to get him convicted.

RELATED: How Cold Cases Get Solved: Experts On Thinking ‘Out Of The Box’ With New Techniques

Leach also identified a body found in a Miami canal by searching missing-persons databases and unidentified remains databases simultaneously, the AP reported.

Fake social media pages on the internet also helped to track down a killer, as shown in the Netflix documentary, “Why Did You Kill Me?”

Belinda Lane Netflix

24-year-old Crystal Theobald was shot to death, and her mother, Belinda Lane, with the help of Crystal’s cousin, Jamie McIntyre, created two fake MySpace profiles to try and find her murderer, according to Oxygen.com. The fake accounts worked, and led to the conviction of multiple suspects.

As the number of social media websites expands, and the internet gets faster and produces better search results, amateur detectives may become even more helpful to the police in solving cases in the future.

This is a promotional post in support of Xfinity 10G.

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