The images spread like wildfire: the body of 17-year-old social media personality Bianca Devins, her neck slashed and body strewn across a wooded area in upstate New York. They were taken by her 21-year-old murderer, a man named Brandon Clark police say she had been dating for two months who was arraigned Monday and now faces a second-degree murder charge.
After stabbing her with a large, black-handled knife, he uploaded the pictures to Instagram, 4chan, and gaming chat platform Discord. He also left a message: “Sorry fuckers, you’re gonna have to find someone else to orbit.” The term "orbit " refers to groups of fans who focus their attention and energy on one specific person.
By the time police arrived on the scene — tipped off by social media users who’d seen the images — the photos had gone viral. On Instagram, where the pictures circulated for 10 to 12 hours before they were removed, users attempted to access the gruesome images in an effort to gain followers and social media clout, with one user claiming they would send followers the photos once they had 8,000 followers. And as of Tuesday afternoon, Instagram users started tagging Bianca’s account, @escty, which has gained over 100,000 followers since her death, in cropped versions of the horrific photo. In the meantime, users on 4Chan, a messaging board known for its thriving misogynistic communities, wrote hundreds of posts celebrating the teen’s death, Syracuse.com reported. Police confirmed to Refinery29 that the images that spread were real, and that they were working with the social media channels to remove the images.
It’s a grim tale, made grimmer by the kind of public spectacle that’s increasing in the era of social media. And it’s unfortunately not the first story of its sort. In March, a white supremacist livestreamed part of his terrorist attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Facebook. In 2017, a New Jersey man killed an 18-year-old woman and then ordered pizza and posted videos singing about the murder shortly afterward. In 2016, a Texas man posted a photo of his murdered girlfriend on her Facebook page. This type of crime raises questions about what responsibility social media channels have to police these posts, and why it can take so long to pull them down.
Screenshots on BuzzFeed News showed that Clark posted a photo of Bianca with her throat slit with the caption, "I’m sorry Bianca" at around 6:40 a.m. on Sunday. While it removed some of the offending images on Sunday, Instagram reportedly allowed the account to stay active for almost a day, at one point putting a "sensitive content filter" over the picture but continuing to let people click and view it. Once Clark’s identity was confirmed on Monday, the company removed his accounts from both Facebook and Instagram, and is also reportedly trying to take down parody accounts. The company says it’s cooperating with law enforcement.
“Our thoughts go out to those affected by this tragic event. We are taking every measure to remove this content from our platforms,” a spokesperson for Facebook said in a statement provided to Refinery29.
A spokesperson for Discord provided a similar statement: "We are shocked and deeply saddened by this terrible situation. We are working closely with law enforcement to provide any assistance we can. In the meantime, our hearts go out to Bianca’s family and loved ones."
In response to the gory images, Bianca’s friends and fans have been tagging her in positive and lighthearted photos of pink clouds, Hello Kitty, and platitudes like “think happy thoughts.” #RIPBianca could also be found across various social media platforms.
— bebe (@bebestgf) July 16, 2019
Images aside, rumors have also spread across social media that Clark was an incel and a stalker. The police have disputed these claims, stating that the pair had an established relationship ahead of the slaying, and that they met on Instagram approximately two months ago. “They were definitely in an intimate relationship, and he referred to her as his girlfriend,” Lt. Bryan Coromato told Refinery29. Coromato said investigators have spoken to the victim’s mother, who confirmed the two had been hanging out.
The duo reportedly attended Canadian singer Nicole Dollanganger’s concert together in New York City on Saturday evening — Clark had given Bianca a ride when they got in an argument. Coromato said investigators are still piecing together the events of the night.
What they do know is that at around 7:20 a.m. on Sunday, Oneida County emergency dispatch received numerous calls about disturbing social media posts Clark had published about allegedly killing Bianca and threatening to kill himself, according to a statement provided to Refinery29 by the Utica Police Department. Clark also called 911 and made incriminating statements with respect to the homicide. When police arrived at the scene of the crime, they found Clark next to a black SUV parked on a dead-end street by a wooded area. As officers approached, he started to stab himself in the neck with the knife.
After injuring himself, Clark reportedly laid on a green tarp that was on the ground nearby, telling police it concealed Bianca’s body. Then he began to take selfies of himself laying across her deceased body. Police disarmed Clark and took him into custody. He was then immediately taken to the hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery. Clark’s self-inflicted injuries were severe, but he is expected to survive. Clark is is currently in the Oneida County Jail.
Bianca’s family described her as a “talented artist, a loving sister, daughter, and cousin, and a wonderful young girl, taken from us all too soon.” The 17-year-old had just graduated from high school last month and was looking forward to attending community college in the fall. “She is now looking down on us, as she joins her cat, Belle, in heaven," the family wrote in a statement. "Bianca’s smile brightened our lives. She will always be remembered as our Princess.”
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I hate that I have to write this. I hate knowing you’re not going to ever come back home. You were the best sister anyone could’ve ever asked for. Thank you for always being there for me. Thank you for being the best sister I could ever imagine .Thank you for always protecting me and sticking up for me. I am going to do this for you. Every day I’m going to do my best and I’m going to get through this thing called life and do it all for you. Rest easy, I love you so much forever and always .
A post shared by Liv (@livdevins) on
We reached out to 4Chan and will update this story if we hear back.
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Source: Refinery29 – Tiffany Diane Tso