Thursday, December 29, 2005

personal blogs and murder

Here's another reason to be smart and on purpose about what you post in your blog. What you post, even innocently and unknowingly, may provide clues to a homicide or other crime. How well do you know those people you gossip about in your blog?

Criminals, and I mean people in your own neighborhood--adulterers, for example, who resort to homicide--are posting too many personal details in their blogs.

This is good. I encourage criminals to blurt out all they want. That's their right. I defend that right that allows them to spill the beans and provide prosecutors with probable motive and leads.

Blogs and conviction of murder suspects is a welcome breath of fresh air for the blogosphere. I'm all for Self-incriminating Blogging by dumb ass crooks and killers. Yeah, buddy. Bring it on.

Now check out a reference on this topic, to substiate what I'm saying. This article in Pressing Issues by Greg Mitchell:

Bizarre Murder Case Raises New Blogging Issues

[QUOTE -- Greg Mitchell]

Mom confesses that she hired two teens (she's sleeping with one of them) to kill Dad, just home from Iraq. She and her late husband both had blogs. So did their two kids. The local paper, the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. quoted from (and linked to) all of them in its coverage. Fair or foul?

By Greg Mitchell

(December 29, 2005) -- With so much written about blogging in the past year, it’s amazing that just now we are witnessing the kind of high-profile crime case that raises new and, some say, troubling issues about how reporters and editors should regard the very personal, yet very public, information shared on Web logs.

The case could hardly be more salacious: Paul Berkley, 46, a Navy reservist home from Iraq and Bahrain, shot by two teens in a North Raleigh, N.C., park in the middle of the night—the boys hired by the dead man’s wife, Monique, to do the deed (she said in a confession). One of the punks claims to have been sleeping with her while the deceased was serving his country.

“It's all just so ironic, isn't it? My dad was in the Middle East for months and months and didn't get shot. ... then he came home, where you'd assume he'd be much safer ... and then, all this happened.” This was a quote carried in the News & Observer of Raleigh.

It came from the blog kept by dead man’s daughter
Becky Berkley. She calls her blog MistressBecky.

The day after police charged her stepmother with killing her father, Becky wrote (the N&O told us) that she and brother Zeke were in California with their mother. "The flight was fine," she revealed. "We sat next to a man that was very nice. He gave me a book called 'Conversations With God.' "

On her blog she has discussed plastic surgery, the Holocaust, and her ex-boyfriend Latwon Johnson. Latwon was one of the boys accused of shooting her Dad. It was the other kid, Andrew Canty, who was sleeping with her step-mom.

The N&O also quoted passages from everyone else in the blog-crazy home: Monique, Zeke and the unfortunate Paul—and provided user-friendly links directly to them.

One could easily find Paul’s picture, hobbies, and final entry, from Dec. 17:

“I have been home a few days now, just got my internal clock turned to local time. I have been shopping and hanging out with family….I watched my son sing the other night in a program put on by the chorus he is in….Last night Becky and I watched Hindi movies and ate pizza. She had never seen any Hindi movies and was really amused... We also did a sentry training program called ‘shoot don't shoot’ which gives you scenarios and asks you if you would shoot the person or not. Becky didn't shoot anyone, preferring to give them the benefit of the doubt, and she was blown up or shot a few times.”

The newspaper, however,went back in time, to reveal, “When Becky was grounded last spring and not allowed to blog, a friend posted a message announcing that Becky had had her first French kiss.” But it also pointed out, more pertinently, that in her blog, Becky “makes no mention of Canty, her high school classmate, moving into their home after her father deployed to the Middle East.”

Readers, meanwhile, could study Monique’s many entries for hints about what was really going on. Someone had posted this comment on her blog last June: "Laying around in young men's arms while your husband endures the horrible heat and conditions my own husband knows all too well is disgusting. I feel for Mr. Berkley."

And reader interest, of course, is high, and no wonder. Among other bizarre details: Paul was known to keep a komodo dragon in his house. Monique had once been involved with a woman who has since had a sex-change operation and become a man. Zeke is a punk rocker who tops his MySpace blog with, “I kill for sex.” And so on.

Ted Vaden, the N&O’s public editor, revealed some negative reader feedback in a column last Sunday. "(W)hat on earth makes the weblogs of the two children newsworthy at all?" asked Hart Matthews of Durham. "Are you suggesting the boy was involved because he uses hard language to describe his punk music? Or that the girl is trying to cover something up because she's so casual? Otherwise, I just can't fathom the purpose of such a story unless it's there to exploit the victims of the crime."

A mom said publishing from Becky Berkley's blog was the same as taking her personal diary from her bedroom.

Vaden explained: “N&O editors defended the use of the family's Web site information as valuable detail that helped readers better understand the tangled relationships of this strange family. After all, it was the two Berkley teenagers who introduced Monique Berkley, their stepmother, to the men accused with her of killing Paul Berkley. Becky Berkley's blog shows that she had a crush on one of the accused.

[snip--material deleted--go visit site to read full article]

How about this one, provided by another N&O writer, Matt Dees, the same day?

Just before Christmas, an 18-year-old in Florida pleaded guilty in a drunken-driving and manslaughter case after he confessed in his blog to causing a fatal crash by grabbing the steering wheel from the passenger's seat.

He firsttold investigators he didn't recall anything, but several days after the accident, he wrote "I did it" on his blog. “He tried to take down the incriminating post,” Dees commented, “but investigators dug it up.”

Greg Mitchell (gmitchell [at] editorandpublisher [dot] com) is editor of E&P. He has a photo blog.


See, this is another example of The Blog Revolution.

Blogs are understood as a New Communication Channel ***and***Research Tool.

Employers, governments, prospective mates, border police, customs agents, local authorities may pry into your very public blog and learn things about you, your friends, your relatives, etc.

Just remember this next time you're in a big hurry to gush prolific over some bit of gossip.

Eerie Sidenote: I just noticed that I'm unable to adjust the time and date of this post. I saved it as a draft, then published the "smart bloggers of Iran" article.

I wanted to change the timestamp of this post, to make it appear at the top of my blog. I can't seem to find that function.

Has it been removed by Blogger? For security and criminal investigation reasons?

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate


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