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Beyond Slender Man: When Teens Use the Internet for Evil

From murder to rape to counterfeit credit cards, young people are perpetrating crimes previously unthinkable – but leaving a trail for authorities.

From murder to rape to counterfeit credit cards, young people are perpetrating crimes previously unthinkable – but leaving a trail for authorities.

The 2014 Slender Man stabbings were like an Internet skeptic’s fever dream come to life: two 12-year-old girls, both socially isolated, one possibly mentally ill, read stories about a (fictional) bogeyman online, became obsessed with him, and allegedly tried to murder one of their middle school classmates in his name. In the years since, debates have raged around the incident, and whether Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier are mini sociopaths in need of punishment or disturbed young women, victims themselves, who deserve treatment. Geyser’s mother spoke about her daughter’s schizophrenia diagnosis in a recent interview, her first since the alleged attempted murder, as well as her hope that her daughter will be tried as a juvenile despite the severity of her crime.

Geyser and Weier may be the most famous teen criminals the Internet has ever produced, but they’re far from the only ones. Here are five stories of kids who figured out how to use the digital world to wreak havoc in the real one.

Teen Becomes First Person in England Convicted of Soliciting His Own Murder
In 2003, a British teen named John very nearly succeeded in tricking a boy he’d met online in a chat room into murdering him. Apparently John had spent months chatting with his would-be assassin, Mark, pretending to be a variety of different characters— including a teenage girl, naturally— as well as a British secret agent named Janet. John-as-Janet told Mark that his victim was already dying of brain cancer—and that his murder was the final test before Mark would be allowed to join her as a spy for their country, for which he would be rewarded handsomely with, among other things, a gun and up to £500,000 cash. Mark followed through, finding John in his Manchester suburb and stabbing him multiple times in the chest and stomach, piercing his kidney and liver. Mark was initially charged with attempted murder, but when investigators discovered the chat logs – 58,000 lines written over the course of six weeks – John was charged as well, and he became the first person in England to be convicted of inciting his own murder. Due to the bizarre circumstances of the case, both boys were given court supervision instead of prison terms. 

British Teens Build Site Linked to Over £15 Million in Credit Card Fraud
If you wanted to talk about how to commit digital crimes in 2009, one of the largest forums to do it on was GhostMarket.net, since nicknamed “Crimebook” by British authorities for its ubiquity. The administrators of the site were three teens who were eventually busted when they tried to pay a£1,000 pound hotel bill using a stolen credit card – but not before the site had been linked to more than £16 million in credit card fraud. One of the boys, founder Nicholas Webber, had business cards with his handle and the site’s URL printed on them in his hotel room at the time of his arrest. When he was released on bail he fled to Majorca, where he continued to live on stolen money and run GhostMarket for several months before finally being arrested attempting to re-enter the UK in early 2010.

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Nick Webber

Two Teens Rape and Murder Classmate, Crime Exposed on World of Warcraft
When Kruse Wellwood and Cameron Moffat decided to murder their high school classmate Kim Proctor in 2010, they were working through fantasies developed during years of watching violent pornography online. Wellwood also had brutal violence in his family: his father had been convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering a teenage girl when Kruse was in elementary school. When it came to their own crime, the boys were careful to manage their digital trail, even instant messaging Kim’s screen name even as they held her captive in Kruse’s home – but they weren’t careful enough. A text Kruse sent from the site where they dumped Kim’s body, along with MSN and World of Warcraft chat logs, were eventually used against them at trial, during which they were both convicted of sexual assault and murder and sentenced to life in prison. Perhaps the most chilling piece of evidence was a line from a chat from the afternoon of the murder, when Kruse, apologising for a protracted silence caused by going to stash Kim’s body in an unused fridge, told a friend “sorry, the freezer was jumping around.”

Teen Kills Ex in Breakfast Bet
When Joshua Davies asked a friend on Facebook what the friend would do if he actually followed through with some vague plans he had to murder his ex-girlfriend, Rebecca Aylward, the friend responded “Oh, I would buy you breakfast.” Joshua’s friends were used to him discussing the idea online in all of its gruesome particulars he had previously mentioned buying poison, as well as fantasising about throwing her off a cliff or drowning her, inspired by favourite violent films like 300 – and they assumed he was just joking. That day, however, after meeting up with Rebecca in a secluded spot near her home and bludgeoning her to death with a rock, Joshua went home and posted a new Facebook status. “I enjoyed a rather good day and a lovely breakfast,” he said. Joshua later brought a friend to the site to see Rebecca’s body in an attempt to set him up for her murder. That didn’t work, though, and he was found guilty in 2011 and sentenced to 14 years in prison for the crime.

Teen Harasses Family Friend Online – and IRL
Leo Traynor, an Irish writer, spent years being increasingly scared for his life. What started as a string of Twitter attacks – usually antisemitic nonsense that he was happy to delete and flag – turned exponentially more sinister when the troll began to send packages to his home. First was a box of ashes with the note “Say hello to your relatives from Auschwitz.” Then came dead flowers with his wife’s Twitter handle attached, quickly followed by a direct message saying “You’ll get home some day & ur bitches throat will be cut & ur son will be gone.” When an IT-whiz friend offered to track down the troll’s IP address in 2012, Traynor was stunned to discover that the three years’ worth of harassment were coming from the teenage son of a close friend. Traynor chose to confront the boy rather than taking the issue to authorities; when faced when evidence of what he’d done and how it had affected his victim, he burst into tears. Yet all he had to say for himself was that it had been “like a game thing” for him.