Detectives work for police departments, private investigators work for citizens or lawyers but sleuthers work for any given “cause” or case. Internet sleuthers are not necessarily new but they are certainly the secret sauce that gives hope to victims, provides clues to investigators and insures that criminal investigations stay alive and well.
Internet sleuthing has helped solve some of the highest profile criminal cases in recent history. Take Casey Anthony for example; it was sleuthers who found the pictures of her partying on the bar over beers bottle during the time one would expect her to be frantically searching for her missing daughter Caylee. Those pictures found on photobucket.com by civilians were a major break in the case. Through those pictures, not only did the whole world see that Casey Anthony was partying while Caylee was missing but also that her accounts of what occurred were quickly impeachable and she was stuck with a story told in photos.
From murders to missing persons to rapes to kidnaps there are online eyes who are evaluating the evidence, criticizing theories, and solving crimes utilizing tools like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter that many use to simply stay in touch with high school friends.
Some of the most famous people in this online crime community are names that may be new to you but are legends to crime fighters. A few of them are Tricia Griffith who runs websleuths.com, Levi Page of the levipageshow.blogspot.com, Red and Dana Pretzer of scaredmonkeys.net, who take their own personal UNPAID time to provoke discussions, ask questions, and diligently analyze each and every piece of available information in order to catch the bad guy or at least shed light on some of the nation’s darkest crimes.
Sleuthing merely requires a computer and an internet connection. No uniform required. Most sleuthers are curled up in their pj’s and do their work while sipping coffee. Don’t laugh… even law enforcement takes these armchair detectives seriously. Just ask Tricia, Levi, Red or Dana. Don’t believe me? The subpoenas and calls from law enforcement speak for themselves. Law enforcement has quickly learned that on line sleuthers have data that even the police don’t have…and that is intel on the people who check out the sleuthers on line. Cops have not only found value in the discussions but potentially more valuable are the IP addresses and info on the people who visit these sites.
I have seen the value of sleuthing, and therefore have become a sleuther myself. In representing several of the victims in the Long Island Serial Killer Case, I created and continue to maintain two websites on the case (http://www.findshannangilbert.com/and http://findmeganwaterman.com/home/). Besides providing information and areas for people to email tips, I can see who visits my site on a daily basis. Why is that important? I have long believed that this case has stayed alive only because the media took an interest in it. Once they took an interest the police did. How do I know this? My websites. A&E airs the documentary, the documentary raises questions, media outlets start covering the case and guess who is on my website today? The State Department, the FBI, and the police department are just a few.
Who else do I think is on these sites? The killer. Killers are narcissistic people who love to read about themselves and take an active interest in their own case. I saw this when I represented Samantha Spiegel in the John Mark Karr case and I believe that could be happening in the Long Island Serial Killer Case as well.
Sleuths are ahead of the curve in that unlike cops, they believe there are invaluable bits of telling evidence that criminals trail all over the internet everyday. Let’s face it, your average fuddy-duddy, coffee addicted detective is not necessarily the best source for the latest internet trends. You don’t expect “Columbo” to know the ins and outs ofFacebook, Photobucket, Twitter, Find My iPhone App, ask Siri, or anything else that sounds like social media. Unfortunately most officers are still caught up with hard evidence like fingerprints and blood splatter analysis. But if you ask me, it’s a mistake for police to fail to investigate internet intel as closely as they do other things.
By having such a narrow focus, investigators leave behind a world of evidence that sleuths are all too happy to dive into. Aptly put by Kimberly Wilson of The Oregonian regarding the disappearance of Kyron Horman, “Feverish website owners and their volunteer acolytes tap into theories, plot time lines, parse media reports, truth-squad comments and study aerial maps, all in an effort to solve what has baffled the pros…”
Tonight on myfoxla.com we will be dissecting the good, the bad, and never heard stories and breaking news that happens online in the world of crime. We will discuss the hottest cases trending in the sleuthing world including ones that you would think are long cold. These include The People’s Court Case (Michelle Parker), The Long Island Serial Killer Case, Robyn Garnder the 2nd missing Aruban case, and even Jon Benet Ramsey. Liz Habib will host Darren Kavinoky and I when we discuss these cases as well as the effect the internet and sleuthers have on criminal justice.