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March 5, 2010 7:11 AM   Subscribe

Fist incidence of 'crazed killer, internet rantings?' I'm looking for the earliest incident where someone killed another person or persons (using a plane, car, gun, bomb, toothpick, poison, etc) and the media coverage quickly or immediately went to the web for the background, and found it.

I know about the Unabomber and the newspapers and the manifesto, not exactly like that.
posted by fixedgear to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The first one I remember is Columbine in 1999.
posted by amro at 7:15 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Related, the Heaven's Gate cult suicides in 1997 seemed to have many news outlets investigating their website, which is still up and unchanged 13 years later.
posted by ALongDecember at 7:22 AM on March 5, 2010

I came in to mention Heaven's Gate as well. For contrast, I don't remember the Internet featuring much in the coverage of the Aum Shinrikyo attacks in 1995, though admittedly my memory may be faulty.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:15 AM on March 5, 2010

Andrew Cunanan
posted by asockpuppet at 8:23 AM on March 5, 2010

Response by poster: Not sure how Andrew Cunanan relates?

Not internet mentions, Johnny Assay, must be mainstream media linking to or talking about blogs, journals, Usenet posts, whatever.
posted by fixedgear at 8:27 AM on March 5, 2010

George Sodini. He's the guy who opened fire last year in a Pittsburgh gym. It was widely reported that his blog was full of warnings that he would do this, if only someone had noticed.

The blog is archived here.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:52 AM on March 5, 2010

Mmm, sorry--just noticed you're looking for the first incidence. At any rate, some of the news stories surrounding him might lead you back there.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:52 AM on March 5, 2010

Kevin Ray Underwood isn't the first incidence, but perhaps the first really spectacular one on my radar (his 4-year blog--which linked to Metafilter--was picked over, and MeFites found his Amazon wishlist and Geocities page, after he killed and ate a 10 year old.)
posted by availablelight at 9:26 AM on March 5, 2010

More mefi internet detective work from that case.
posted by availablelight at 9:51 AM on March 5, 2010

Yeah, it's hard to imagine anything predates Heaven's Gate. Media didn't really use internet in reporting before then, and if I recall (I was pretty young at the time), a lot of the television coverage only mentioned their website because it was weird and made a good visual contrast. I'm sure there are some instances of internet backgrounding that predate it, but they're likely to be niche and much smaller scale, like some guy at Omni writing an article about BBS posts, rather than WXYZ News in Anytown, America doing a 2 minute package that features people using the word "web page."
posted by Damn That Television at 11:01 AM on March 5, 2010

I'm looking for the earliest incident where someone killed another person or persons

How is Heaven's Gate relevant? It was a mass suicide.
posted by amro at 11:22 AM on March 5, 2010

Response by poster: I had in mind single actor, so half credit for Heaven's Gate.
posted by fixedgear at 11:44 AM on March 5, 2010

Didn't people find Eric Harris' and Dylan Klebold's custom Doom files? I remember all the rumors about the files actually being *of* Columbine, though that ended up not being true.
posted by harperpitt at 12:27 PM on March 5, 2010

I heard those Doom rumors too.
posted by NoraReed at 1:36 PM on March 5, 2010

Best answer: Eric Harris had a website that was picked over by the media.
posted by Kattullus at 2:36 PM on March 5, 2010

Response by poster: It's looking like Columbine so far, but there must be something earlier.
posted by fixedgear at 2:37 PM on March 5, 2010

The recent attack in Austin where the guy flew his plane into a building housing IRS offices left an online manifesto railing against the government.
posted by ishotjr at 7:00 PM on March 5, 2010

Best answer: 1998: On-Line Trail to an Off-Line Killing
1998: Murder by Internet
1996: Bingo. Police search AOL files for evidence in murder
Fairfax County, Va. police, helping in the murder investigation, obtained a criminal search warrant and descended on the company's Vienna, Va. headquarters last week to perform the first such search ever of America Online records.

That said, this seems to be a precursor. None of these was headline-grabbing 24/7 cable coverage fests, so it was a police investigation and not the media that looked at the internet angles.

There was also the 1995 alt.sex.stories case that involved no murder, just sick fantasies naming a living individual.

I checked for anything on Timothy McVeigh and although there's lots of coverage of the post-bombing internet discussion, including the then-fairly-new group misc.activism.militia, no search for an electronic trail. This is definitely something worthy of further study if anyone is in a media/internet course.
posted by dhartung at 11:40 PM on March 5, 2010

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