I will go back to my roots, I promise...just not today.
I've been making a point of pulling stories from national newspaper headlines and showing how a good majority of the players involved have access to and are frequent participants in Social Networking sites like Myspace (I won’t go through the whole list, as Myspace is currently the biggest) to help you in an area that we, as Criminal Defense Investigator's really need to focus on...utilizing social networking sites PRODUCTIVELY in our investigations.
In the past when doing background investigations or mitigation type work on cases, we were forced to start from scratch and most of the initial grunt work was done on the ground, going to family members and friends. This is, and in my eyes always will be the best way to do most investigations: In person and in the field.
With sites like Myspace, we are given access to entire families and contacts that we might never have in real life or EVEN KNEW EXISTED if we had just stuck to punding the pavement!
In this weeks example, I'm going to briefly introduce you to the story of a young, 22 year-old Iowan that is alleged to have killed his entire family, Father, Mother, and three sisters over the past weekend. I’m also including the Myspace page of one of his sisters (Sheena).
Henry C. Jackson (AP Reporter) writes in the Washington Post:
Okay. In my preliminary searches I was unable to come up with any pages for Shawn Bentler. If I had more time, I'd be able to do a more thorough search, but here is the Myspace page belonging to that of his deceased sister, Sheena Bentler:
A day after 14-year-old Shayne and four other family members were gunned down in their southeastern Iowa home, 22-year-old Shawn Bentler was charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his parents and three teenage sisters...
...The sheriff's office said it received the 911 call from Shayne Bentler at 3:38 a.m. Details of the call were included in sheriff's documents. Authorities said they received a second 911 call at the same time from Sandra Bentler's cell phone.
That call went unanswered.
Sheena talk's about the normal teenage girl stuff on her page and it seems that she only has a couple of comments she has made on friends pages. So it’s hard to get a good read on her, especially since she doesn't provide a whole lot of information about herself.
It's ironic that enjoys Action, Horror, Suspense (and lots of good fights) in Movies and Murder Mysteries and suspense in Books…considering the death of her and her family could become a bit a mystery itself.
As an investigator, I would see that I now have a (short) list of friends that I may never have heard about, had I limited myself to just talking to the state's witnesses. The friends might be able to shed additional light on Sheena's relationship with her brother and also provide possibly useful insight into Shawn.
The real nitty gritty comes from the myspace page of an ex-girlfriend who writes some interesting blog posts about her relationship with Shawn.
Meet Kayla H., a twenty year-old, pretty little bleached blonde from Illinois.
There are really only two posts talking about Shawn, the first being:
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Title: doo waa diddy, diddy dum, diddy doo...
Current mood: anxious
Shawn FINALLY got a job!! A good one at that!!! He is selling cars now at shottenkirk!! Yaaay!!! Now he can start paying some of MY bills. But now..:(. I am jobless, broke, and really missing him. It is 9 in the morning and I am sitting at his house ALONE. Today was his first day of training. I took him to work and felt like a mom taking her little kid to her first day of school. I was kinda sad *tear*. Ohh well, I am very happy for him, for us, and I hope now he can stop being so depressed and be a lil nicer to me. Not that he is bad..he has just been a lil "down in the dumps", and has been TAKING IT OUT ON ME!! I'm ready to stop FIGHTING. This blog was so pointless. I need a friggin' LIFE!
This is actually a little sad, but the important part is that Kayla noticed that Shawn was depressed and, Down in the dumps. Obviously Kayla will be a fantastic source of what Shawn was like on a day to day basis and also give us some ground to work with into his state of mind.
Her next post is more of the same:
Monday, May 01, 2006
Title: Who knows what will happen..
Current mood: curious
I am so FRUSTRATED!!! I am so sad. I am so happy. I am so CONFUSED!!! Things haven't been going well with Shawn at ALL lately, and I have been DEVASTATED. We broke up and I thought I was going to die. We got back together, and I was so happy..and now things are not well again..and the sad thing is, I dunno if I care!! EEEK :( I am just sick of doing 'this' with him. He has been avoiding me, and won't answer any of my calls. OK, I am to the point that if this is how it is going to be, I just want him to tell me right now so I can start moving on. I am so over all this crap. I love him, but why?? What the fuck is there to love?? I saw a cute boooy at the show Sat. night. And, he is IN A BAND!! ACK!! Not that again!! Ohh well, he is cute :D:D.
Hmm..a beautiful distraction maybe??
More insight into Shawn? Maybe, maybe not, You can read the rest of her blog to find out whats going on in that 20 going on 12 year-old head of hers.
It seems that there is always the inevitable ex-girlfriend that comes out of the woodwork to say that she remembered "Johnny" wanting to off his entire family when they were dating because his kid brother forgot to put the ice-cream back in the freezer. Sometimes these folks are trying to help and sometimes they just want the spotlight on them. If for some reason Kayla turns into that ex, then you might find that her Myspace page can also be used to show that she was a chick that liked to drink a lot…and I do mean a lot and if she is going to be considered a witness ALL factors about her background need to be considered.
I could go further but I don't want to bore everyone to death. This is really just the tip of the iceberg on this case and maybe even your own! We PDI's and private CDI's need to start getting creative on where we start looking for info because lord knows we don't have the time, money, and all around general resources of the District Attorney and every Law Enforcement agency in the nation.
We need to put our heads together whenever we can, and share information like this in the hopes that the new tools we learn to use can help give our client's the best representation possible.
That being said, I'm also going to use this space to say you might want to think about joining The Public Defender Investigator Listserv of the user group of any other defense investigator related site...there are a lot of them out there and its a good place to meet other investigator's to share questions and ideas!
Ciao for now, I promise to stop writing about Myspace Investigations soon.