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Dark Web Exposed: When Gruesome Personal Tragedies Go Viral
Brandon Andrew Clark broadcast the brutal murder of Instagram star and promising model Bianca Devins in July 2019.
On July 13, 2019, Brandon Andrew Clark uploaded a series of disturbing photos and posts to social media.
Some of the morbid images, which showed a young woman’s dead body, were shared on Instagram and the gamer site Discord. Others showed Clark clutching a knife.
One of the graphic pictures, which appeared to show a green tarp and an outstretched hand, was captioned with the cryptic message, “I’m sorry Bianca.”
The images rapidly proliferated on the websites 4chan, 8chan, and later Reddit.
“I’m ending it today,” Clark had previously written on Facebook. “I’m sorry to all the family and friends who wanted me to achieve. I love you all.”
He'd also posted a dark message on Instagram: "Here comes hell. It's redemption, right?"
At around 7:20 a.m. that day, Clark made contact with emergency dispatchers.
“It was one of the weirdest 911 calls I've heard in my career,” Sean Mills, a public safety reporter for the Rome Sentinel, told producers of "Dark Web Exposed," a multi-platform series from Oxygen Media. “He was very cool and collected. He tells them something like, ‘I can't stay on the phone very long. I have to commit the suicide part of the murder-suicide. At one point, the dispatcher asks him for a call back number, when he says something like, ‘Don't call me back. You're going to f--k up my suicide photo.’”
Authorities managed to trace the phone call to a residence in Utica, NY. When investigators found Clark, he was attempting to cut his own throat — while trying to livestream it all. The corpse of Bianca Devins, a 17-year-old model whose murder Clark had documented on social media, was discovered nearby. Her throat had also been slit.
The following day, Clark, at the time 21, was charged with second-degree murder in Devins’ slaying. A gaping wound was visible on his neck in his mugshot. As the hashtag #RIPBianca trended on social media, photos of Devins’ final moments also began to propagate across the internet.
“People just are taking it and spreading it and it goes farther and farther,” Mills said.
“It went viral instantly,” investigative reporter Niki Luciano told producers.
The exact nature of their relationship remains unclear. Police at the time, however, speculated Devins and Clark may have been in a sexual relationship.
Livestreaming and documenting gruesome crimes on social media has become a growing phenomenon in the digital era. However, Clark’s case — and Devins’ death — is perhaps the most publicized and widely shared example.
“This is a truly disturbing case,” Adam Scott Wandt, an assistant professor of public policy at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, previously told Oxygen.com. “He wanted to die, and he wanted her to die, and he wanted an audience for all of this.”
Prior to Devins’ murder, the young social media influencer had a prominent digital footprint.
The 17-year-old had several social media accounts under different user names on Twitter, Instagram, and Discord. In death, her online notoriety skyrocketed. More than a year after her murder, the late teen’s Instagram account has more than 160,000 followers.
Meanwhile, images of her gruesome murder are still believed to circulate online.
“Her parents have fought really hard to get the murder images taken down,” Luciano added. “Obviously it's their daughter's last moments so they don't want to have that available for anybody. Unfortunately, many of the graphic images still exist on social media sites today.”
No matter how many times the horrific pictures are removed from social media platforms, they could reappear at any time.
“Plenty of people probably saved it and plenty of people share it elsewhere,” Mills, the Rome Sentinel reporter, explained. “Anyone at any time could re-upload it. That kind of picture would never die. It's just how these horrors of the internet work.”
Beyond her online persona, Devins was also recognized as a budding model and a talented artist.
“She would have been a famous model hands down,” Mae Scialdone, a talent agent and Devin’s mentor, previously told Oxygen.com. “She would have gone to the top quickly. Her future was just so bright. She was just next level in so many different ways.”
Devins, she said, aspired to study psychology after she graduated.
“I don't think that anyone really knows, like, how strong of an aura and a presence that she was,” Scialdone added. “I'm hard to impress. And she impressed me.”
Scialdone described Devins as “radiant and glowing” and the teen's family has also shared their memories of her.
“My sister was a beautiful girl with a beautiful heart and she lit up every room she walked into,” Olivia Devins, Bianca’s sister, said at the slain teen’s funeral last year.
Clark pleaded guilty in February, though he attempted to withdraw that plea in July. A judge ruled in October that Clark couldn't withdraw the plea and ordered sentencing to go forward in December, though the proceedings have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Her murder was videotaped and we would have had to play that,” Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara previously told Oxygen.com about the benefits of avoiding a trial. “I don’t think that would have been healthy for anybody. It sure hasn’t been healthy for myself and my assistants handling this case.”
Clark faces 25 years to life in prison.
“There’s never going to be closure for her family,” Scialdone added. “He needs to spend his life in jail. “You just can’t have a person like that not in jail for the rest of their life.”
A vigil was held for Devins in July to commemorate the one-year anniversary of her death, according to the Observer-Dispatch, a Utica newspaper.