Net holds dark hints on slayings

Pair accused in deaths of Alberta family posted messages on notorious websites

CALGARY — It didn’t take long for the Internet and all the fears parents have about their children becoming prey on-line to take centre stage in a triple murder investigation in southern Alberta.

Yesterday, Edmonton police asked a popular website to remove postings from the two people accused in the slayings of a family in Medicine Hat, about 290 kilometres southeast of Calgary.

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Before the material was deleted, it showed disturbing statements from one of the accused, a 12-year-old girl.

“Are you stalking me? cuz that would be super” and “WelcomeToMyTragicEnd” were among the missives the girl posted on Nexopia.com, a popular site among Western Canadian youth aged 14 to 22, with more than 650,000 registered members.

The other accused is a 23-year-old man, whom friends have said sparked a romance with the young girl after meeting her a few months ago on VampireFreaks.com, a website dedicated to the Goth lifestyle.

The man posted in his blog on Nexopia a month ago: “She continues to thank that I came into her life to help her out and stop what they keep trying to shout. . . .Their throats I want to slit.”

Both sites have been previously named in connection with tragedy, including the trial for the murder of a 12-year-old boy in Toronto, and security scares, such as high school hit lists that have surfaced in Calgary.

“We should be cautious about jumping to conclusions, but there are some disturbing indications,” said Stephen Kent, a sociologist at the University of Alberta who studies cults and alternative religions.

“From time to time in North America, youth involved with Goth subculture get involved in serious crimes. Let’s hope this is not another instance.”

The 12-year-old girl, who looks much more mature than her age, and 23-year-old Jeremy Steinke, both of Medicine Hat, were remanded in custody yesterday.

The girl, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, is scheduled to appear in court again May 1. Mr. Steinke returns May 2.

The two were arrested on Monday morning in Saskatchewan, less than 24 hours after Marc and Debra Richardson and their son Jacob, 10, were found dead in their home.

The causes of death were not released yesterday.

In the past year, two students in Calgary have been arrested over questionable postings on Nexopia.com., one for allegedly making death threats and the other for weapons offences.

Matthew Parsons, head of marketing with Nexopia.com, yesterday called police to offer information, and said the website was not supposed to be a forum for unsociable remarks.

“This is not what we intended the site to be used for. So when it is misused in that manner it is frustrating,” he said.

It’s not clear if the 12-year-old girl’s family knew she was a website user. Her musings included “Have you ever been arrested? Not Yet”, and “Have u ever cheated on someone? Yes . . . Many Years Ago.”

Users under 18 are to supposed to have the permission of their parents or guardians to join, and the company’s website says it does not “knowingly” allow anyone younger than 14 to participate.

The girl’s profile, which included pictures of her in dark Goth makeup, described her as 15.

Nobody from VampireFreaks.com, which was created in 1999 by a computer science student from Brooklyn, N.Y., would talk about the site’s connection to the people accused in the Alberta deaths. The site has 400,000 active members, and users are supposed to be at least 13.

The trial in the murder of a young Toronto boy was derailed in 2005 after it was disclosed that a VampireFreaks.com profile of a 15-year-old girl, a key witness in the case, appeared to contradict her sworn testimony about having no interest in the Goth scene.

Karen Robbins, who is AOL Canada’s “Net Mom” and who teaches safe use of the Internet, said parents shouldn’t feel guilty about blocking websites and monitoring who their children are talking to on-line.

“The Internet is the easiest place for someone to parade around as someone they are not,” she said.

Source

(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Globe and Mail, Canada
Apr. 26, 2006
Dawn Walton
www.theglobeandmail.com
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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday April 26, 2006.
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