Monday, November 14, 2005

From MySpace To Murder

When The News And Social Networks Collide

Kara @ MySpace David @ MySpace

Early in the morning of November 13th, 2005, Kara Borden, a 14-year-old from Lititz, Pennsylvania, logged onto MySpace. The young, bubbly, blonde-haired, brown-eyed homeschooled high school freshman had a profile on the popular networking site, brightly colored with pink-lined black boxes listing her friends and hobbies, a rainbow striped white background and a picture of her in a pink top, smiling with lips closed to hide her braces. She listed her interests as soccer, talking on the phone, the beach and partying. "Books are gay," she wrote. She lied about her age, listing it as 17.

A few hours later she stood by as her boyfriend, David Ludwig, 18, shot and killed her parents.

David was on MySpace too.

Just after noon the next day, Police were able to track the two teens down in Indiana, capturing them after a high speed chase. But before that, as the story of the double murder and the two missing teens hit the news, hundreds of curious, saavy web-surfers soon found Kara and David's MySpace profiles and Xanga blogs. It didn't take long for reporters to begin doing the same thing. A photo used by numerous news web sites was also from the MySpace profile of Kara's best friend. MSNBC was first to report the teens' interests found listed online.

Next to Kara's profile picture is a quote. "...Cause I need you and I miss you," obstensibly from Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles." A reference to David? Or just a favorite song? Strangers commenting on Kara's MySpace blog perused every little detail.

David's MySpace profile, last visited by him on November 12th, provides little to suggest a day later he'd murder two people. Like many other users, he lists his religion, Christian, and his job, Product Specialist at Circuit City. He says he doesn't smoke but does drink. Messages left by his friends include one asking if he's "going to help the smiths move on the 12th." Kara leaves a message, happy that he's signed up for MySpace, and asks him to leave a comment on her page. "<3Kara<3", she signs off.

In a October 24th blog entry, David writes about going to see the new Wallace and Gromit movie, and about visiting a college with his parents. "I did get to go and see Were-Rabbit (the new Wallace and Gromit movie) with a bunch of friends...I enjoyed the movie even if a bunch of ppl didn't..lol it did have some crude humor...but some of it was reeeally funny! lol *wicked grin*"

"So yes and now today I shall be doing school and tomorrow I'm going to visit stupid York Tech school complemints [sic] of my loverly parents lol But yes now I must run and do school so ya'll have a good day. God bless!!"

David's Xanga site states that he enjoys "soft air gun wars" and "getting into trouble." He provides a link to his pictures. An album full of pictures of only him, and an album of hunting photos. Several show the teen gutting a deer.

Kara's messages to David on MySpace are brief, harmless, seemingly frivolous. She disagrees with his statement that he's a bit overweight. "Very skinny babe..get that through your little head!! heh otay ttyl."

"How is school and crap?" She asks a mutual friend of her and David's. "Mine is really boring..sigh...oh well ttyl."

Her blog talks about soccer, bands she likes, and getting baptized. She posted several pictures that have since been taken down due to the high amount of web traffic the site was receiving.

But perhaps far more disturbing are the messages left by voyeuristic web browsers, who wasted no time offering their take on events.

Under David's blog entry, one user jokes, "I have a bad feeling about this guy, i'd stay away if i were you." Another adds, "You know what inmates do to guys like you?" One girl writes, "U HAVE SERIOUS PROBLEMS U SICK FREAK!!! ON THE NEWS IT SAID U WERE A CHRISTIAN MY ASS U WOULDNT HAVE KILLED HER PARENTS IF U WERE!!!!" A debate on the godliness of Christians follows. The comments grow progressively angrier and more vulgar than can be printed here.

Recent posts included a "Free David" graphic and an invitation to the "David Double Homicide Fan Club."

The comments on Kara's profile arent much better. Many express sympathy and belief in her innocence, but others accuse her of being David's partner in crime, and helping him plan the murder.

Some MySpace users even travelled to the pages of Kara and David's friends, glutting their comment space with hate-filled invective. One friend of Kara's cancelled her account.

"I know you are ALL worried about my best friend Kara and even David," Kara's friend writes on her profile page, "Yes it true what happened, the muder [sic] and abduction - as far as anything else..I am not sure at the moment. I would greatly appriciate it if you ALL stopped messaging me and Kara and even David. Thanks for your prayers -its greatly appriciated! But - the constant overflow of messages is too much on top of all this! Thanks though for caring!"

Another friend reveals far more aggrivation with the flock of rubberneckers visiting her page. "I do NOT know where she is and i have NOTHING to do with her being missing," she writes. "ALL IN ALL, STOP SENDING ME MESSAGES JUST TO ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT KARA. I GOT OVER 65 MESSAGES WITHIN AN HOUR LAST NIGHT AND I ONLY RESPONDED TO THE FIRST 3. SO MORE THAN LIKELY, YOU ARE WASTING YOUR TIME SENDING ME ONE."

Shortly after Kara's page began to attract attention her profile was set to private (meaning only her friends can access it) and most of its content was taken offline. But not before someone corrected her age to 14.

It's unclear whether authorities are aware of Kara and David's online presence, but it was reported in a local Lancaster, Pennsylvania paper, and investigators have confiscated both teens' computers.

It's not the first time MySpace has had a surreal role in popular news stories. At times it's been a colorful sounding board, other times space for a grim eulogy.

Earlier this summer, Zach Stark, a gay 16-year-old from Bartlett, Tennessee made headlines when he wrote in his MySpace blog about his parents' decision to send him to Camp Refuge, a camp aimed at setting homosexuals straight. Gay rights activists picked up on Zach's blog and rallied to his side, protesting the group running the camp, Love In Action. Earlier this month, a federal judge upheld the State of Tennessee's prosecution of Love In Action for running a mental health facility without a license.

And in September, Mellie Carballo and Maria Pesantez, two teenage New York City college students, died in a well-reported wave of heroin overdoses. Both had MySpace profiles. Friends and strangers visited to leave notes of condolence, as well as a few scathing diatribes against the way heroin use had wasted two young lives. Both girls profiles' contained numerous drug references.

On the MySpace profile of Taylor Behl, 19, a college student allegedly murdered by a web pornographer she had become friendly with, friends and strangers posted pleas for her safe return before police made the gruesome discovery of her body.

While the news may not have a long shelf life, these online profiles do. New messages from friends still appear on Maria's MySpace page every so often. So do spam ads from the clubs she used to frequent. On Taylor's profile, friends relayed condolence letters strangers had sent them. Several MySpace tributes to Taylor's memory have been created. Since returning from Camp refuge, Zach erased his old blog and strangers' comments, but updates readers of his situation. "I miss my old life," he wrote in a recent entry.

Sometimes a MySpace profile is created after a news story takes place. Hoax profiles often appear for celebrities when they arise to the top of the News. The Olsen Twins, for example, have numerous entries pretending to be them on several different networking sites. Kara and David's profiles were not, however, hoaxes.

What does a MySpace profile reveal? And what, if anything, could parents do if they knew about them earlier? If the parents had been aware of the numerous drug references present in Mellie and Maria's profiles, could they have provided them counselling before it was too late? Would Kara's parents have talked to their child earlier, once finding out she was representing herself as a 17 year old who likes to party? Would they have been more aware of David's capacity for violence if they had seen his xanga site?

Hindsight is 20/20. What might look obvious to someone looking back on a profile now, may have seemed innocuous before. But clearly, what MySpace and others like it do provide are windows into the private and complex mind of a teenager. The pages are not always frivolous fun... they may also be a cry for help.

On MySpace, users write headlines above their photo to attract people to their profiles, to show off who they are and sum up how they feel. Kara's headline is eerily ironic and utterly familiar, to anyone who knows the frustrations of being an overprotected teenager.

Kara Borden's headline was "meant X to X live."

29 comments:

Lauren B said...

Great piece.. nicely done

blxzhh said...

the sick fucks blog is at www.xanga.com/Haydren

josie said...

cbs totally used pictures from the girl's blog

http://www.cbsnews.com/images/2005/11/16/image1046835g.jpg

ecko said...

this isn't real, but it's creative:

http://www.xanga.com/karebear0001/353102413/item.html

Hot Mama said...

This is a terrific piece. Has anyone picked up on this story?

Anonymous said...

Saw this on MSNBC. I think you're reading too much into the "meant to live" descriptor. That was the title of an enormously popular song by the Christian rock band Switchfoot.

Anonymous said...

Saw this on MSNBC. I think you're reading too much into the "meant to live" descriptor. That was the title of an enormously popular song by the Christian rock band Switchfoot.

Anonymous said...

glad somebody else picked up on the switchfoot reference. the title, i imagine, is making no reference to the harshness of teenage life, but rather to that song.
her christianity might be something you should have looked at more closely, as her first interest on her MySpace was "JESUS!" while the "partying" you refer to was only mentioned toward the end in that long list.

Anonymous said...

Kara's headline "meant to live" is most likely a reference to the song of the same name by the Christian band Switchfoot.

m said...

This is becoming more and more common. Actually... the first case I heard about this (which never hit a national level) is about a girl from western illinois. Sarah Kolb, a 17 year old girl from Milan, Illinois is currently being charged with strangling, burning, dismembering, and scattering the body parts. This happened around a year ago. She had a deviant art account, which was quickly shut down. She still has a myspace account (it shows her as being 20, but it IS her). I don't think hers ever became too noticed. But still, I have heard many people talk about it, about how some local girl being charged of murder had a myspace account.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree that the title undoubtedly is not meant the way you have portrayed it. You'll fine the same reference on various sites to this switch foot songs whose lyrics are "we were meant to live for so much more" and are written from a Christian point of view, not from one of teen angst.

Anonymous said...

This was a good post; I got a lot out of it. But as a resident of Virginia, I must say that you fudged Taylor Behl’s age by two years.

Anonymous said...

I thought Dave looked really nice in orange and white stripes, really brought out a nice color in his cheeks. Do they get matching sock and shoes. You know black Converse All-Stars would look really cool.

Meg said...

With everything seeming to sound like the national inquirer, I think Adam is really in touch with how to get ahold of someones interest.(You're an awesome writer) Teens do not think that an adult is reading things online. They put personal things online thinking that they are speaking out to others in the same mindframe/agegroup. It's so concerning that this type of thing is happening.It breaks my heart. My baby brother chats online. I thought he was innocent until I read his profile on myspace:(

Anonymous said...

KAra's New xanga is XAnga.com/karebear0005

emily said...

I like the piece a lot. I am intrigued by the blog world, but I definately censor what I put on mine. Not to the point of paranoia, but to an extent. A girl at my high school (witness me not lying about my youth :))got in trouble, because she put some mean stuff about a teacher on her blog. She got suspended, and was forced to change the post. But it kind of made me question the ethics of busting somebody for something they did outside of school on their own time. In any case, I'm glad to see you've brought the blogs into the light :).

A concerned parent said...

I thank you for bringing parents attention to "My space". It is definitely not a place for children under the age of 17, but yet kids that are as young as 11 yrs old are on it frequently along with thier profiles. Fortunatly,a friend of mine,who is a teacher informed me that my daughter who is 11yrs. old had a profile on "my space". I brought her profile up to find that my little girl was posing as a 17 year old and single. Along with a picture of her in a short skirt and high heels and it was clear that she was not 17yrs old."A child molesters dream". My response was how? I have child protective locks on my computer, she was on another computer at a friends house. I confronted my daughter to find that most of her friends and half her school had profiles on this website. Then I notified the vice principal,who immediatly sent out a newsletter warning parents about "my space". One friend of my daughters,whom we looked up was having chats with men.One of these creeps offered to mend her broken little heart. We notified her mom immediately. My question is other then parental awareness, is ther anything we can do legally do to protect our children? Again "thank you" for your story. I know it has helped make unsuspecting parents aware of "my space" and the dangers that come along with it.

Anonymous said...

I certainly don't see where noticing that the young man was a dear hunter would warn the parents that he should be expected to commit murder and/or abduction. In fact I hardly see the correlation between the site and the tragedy. However, I am glad to see some exposure here as I too found my 13 y/o child (now 15) posing as a 92 year old woman with bi-sexual tendencies and a penchant for sadomasochism on myspace (when confronted she had no idea how sick her page really was, but rather it was an outlet to bring on a bizarre and rapid education from the real world without boundaries or consequences). She was also home schooled at the time and doing amazingly well considering that most of the day was apparently being spent on myspace and aim and not on the curriculum that was supposed to keep time and progress records to insure that she was only doing her school work. I immediately stuck her back in public school and she hasn't been on the internet or the computer for that mater since the day I made that discovery (she forgot to log off and was half an hour late coming home when I logged into her Windows account to check her homework).

As most parents are brain washed into believing that the world around them requires unrestricted access to the internet in order for a child to complete high school my best suggestion to any parent would be for them to create their own myspace account and one for their child. Lie to the computer and tell them that the child is 17 then make the first line read, but I'm really XX y/o. Put each other on your friends list and keep an eye on them and encourage depth in thought as they navigate through this territory. Help them to understand the danger and thus the reason why you must know their password, but don't be too harsh when your child gives you an unprecedented VIP pass into their personality and self. If you think that you can keep your child away from myspace or the like, think again. Every parent doesn’t watch their children close, so even if you do, the kid next door may open the gate or a spoiled friend at school with a laptop and EvDo card may be the one, but at the end of the day where there is a will there is most certainly a way.

Anonymous said...

Deer hunter, damn I hate when I let stuff like that slip by. Unfortunately I posted anonymous so I can't go back and correct it. Adam, feel free to do that for me at any time.

Thanks,

Type-O Positive

Ray said...

SO yea this was a really great article. I was just wondering how hunting and gutting a deer have any corrilation with being a serial Killer ?

mike said...

Pretty terrific piece indeed :(

Anonymous said...

First saw this a little when it broke on local news. This shit is crazy and the sad thing is that I bet this is always happen just never picked up. Great Story though.

Anonymous said...

adam,

for you article on msnbc, was it reprinted by them or you? i saw subtle changes in some of the wording between the two articles and didnt know if you made them before reposting it on msnbc or they made the changes? if you could, send me an email. thanks

kstaz@swbell.net

samuraied said...

Your comment about his violent tendancies because of his pictures is totally off base, just because someone hunts does not mean they are a violent person. If you believe that is the case you need a complete reality check.

Lora said...

All of us Christians to whom God is giving the chance to know this story, let us look around for such people whithin our own churches. She spoke of her youth group. Was that group of people blind or were they afraid to tell her her obvious sins?
Or were those around her boyfriend even blinder than that?
We know too much and don't do anything. This will inflict a bigger punishment on us the day Jesus comes back.

Anonymous said...

MySpace isn't the cause of all this drama. There are a lot of sick fucks out there. These ones just happen to have a MySpace account. I have one and am perfectly normal.
myspace.com/stitch_kid

Anonymous said...

i was with this story from begining to the end... and now kara goes to my school and i am friends with her... all you ass holes who dont know the whole story and are just assuming shit need to shut the fuck up... kara is a great person and i wont sit here and not say nething while you people say shit like "its her fault her parents are dead" its not.. she didnt pull the trigger, so for all those who are just sayin shit and dont know nething.. FUCK YOU!!!

Adam said...

At no point in this article do I blame Kara for the murder of her parents. The article isn't about that. If you actually read my article instead of skimming through it, you'd know that. The article is about the relatively new phenomenon of social networking, and how people who figure prominently in news stories often find their online profiles beseiged when curious web-surfers find them. In Kara's case, her profile and the profiles of her friends became inundated with comments, some supportive, some not, after the news of what happened went public. It's only natural that some things found on her profile were reinterpreted after what happened. Whether or not her parents could have done something had they seen Kara's online profile is a valid question. But, I reiterate, I never blamed Kara for what happened. I wish her and the whole community well and hope they are coping with this tragedy.

Anonymous said...

well im glad to fully understand your point of view and i did read the article i was just saying for those who left comments about that are wrong... for those who did blame her.. they need to fully understand whats happened... again i will say im not sayin nethin about you personally im stated for those who just barely know nething

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