It’s been a while since I posted about a craigslist-like murder. In my absence, I’ve probably missed more than a few. Unfortunately, another one has happened recently. Last week, 23-year-old Joshua Grey was shot and killed after listing his iPhone for sale on the marketplace app LetGo. Joshua was said to have met his assailant alone at a local intersection in Richmond, Virginia. The killer shot Joshua and then took his iPhone. Joshua was able to get to a nearby convenience store where he tragically died from his injuries.
Police in Richmond have released surveillance video of Joshua’s alleged killer and are looking for the public’s help in bringing the man to justice. The video can be seen at this link. Richmond Police are asking for the public’s help in finding Joshua’s killer.
Anyone with any information about this homicide to call Major Crimes Detective T. Coates at (804) 646-0729 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at http://www.7801000.com. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used. All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.
Again I have to stress that if you use any classifieds site or app it’s imperative that you meet the other person involved in the transaction at a local police department. Many police stations have set up public meeting zones at their locations to better protect those buying and selling through classifieds. Some of these websites and apps have even set up listings of safe places to conduct these transactions. As I’ve said in the past, the old rules don’t apply anymore. Just meeting someone in public during the day isn’t enough anymore as the thieves and killers who inhabit sites like craigslist and apps like LetGo have stepped up their aggression in recent years leaving hundreds of bodies in their wake.
He is described as being 5 feet 6 inches tall, about 180-pounds with black hair and brown eyes.
He was last seen wearing a black T-shirt, black shorts, and black Puma sneakers. He is missing the top portion of his left index finger.
His truck is a 2012 Ford F-150 FX4. Gonzalez removed his license plate because he believed he was selling the vehicle.
Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to call the Phoenix Police Department’s Missing Persons Unit at 602-534-2121.
If you’re selling a vehicle on craigslist, I recommend not only meeting the buyer at a police station and taking someone with you in case there’s trouble. Ultimately, I would never recommend doing any business on craigslist.
I pray to God for Mr. Gonzalez’s safe return. Unfortunately, when a victim disappears from a craigslist deal, rarely do they return if ever I’m sorry to say.
Recently, one of New York’s less than trustworthy and more opinionated newspapers ran an article claiming online sex trafficking hasn’t changed since the federal seizure of Backpage. The article claims an ‘unnamed source’ within the NYPD is saying there has been no slow down since Backpage was shuttered. This newspaper seems to be one of the outlets that believe the ‘consenting adult’ myth, as they quote a john who said prostitution should be legal since gambling and marijuana are legal in some places. The problem with that analogy is weed and casino chips aren’t being repeatedly sold against their will.
However, the article then goes on to not only mention a new website but also links to the new site as well, supposedly the sleazy heir apparent to Backpage. I’m not going to link to the article, the website, or mention the website by name, but the site looks like it’s trying to copy Backpage even right down to the CSS. The ads on this new site seem to be even more blatant than the usually coded ads that appeared on Backpage. This new site also has the usual disclaimer that ads related to human trafficking will not be tolerated, asking ad posters to click on a button that says ‘I agree’. They’re even trying to be more shifty than Backpage was. In my research, I was unable to find any information regarding who owns the new platform. Their social media presence is almost non-existent, however, I was able to find some information that the site does business in Texas, although reports say the website itself is allegedly hosted in Canada.
While the New York tabloids may be decrying online sex trafficking has continued unabated since the closure of Backpage, it’s still too early to really tell. It’s only been less than two months since Backpage was seized so it’s still too early to say it’s business as usual. At its height, Backpage was responsible for 80% of all online sex trafficking in the US by most reports and had the financial backing of a media company. In today’s post-FOSTA world, it will be almost impossible for a website to be as lucrative as Backpage was at its zenith.
The online sex trafficking trade has been severely splintered. While it may continue to exist, it will never be at the level it was when Backpage was running things. This is a good thing despite protests to the contrary, as it causes fewer victims to be trafficked against their will. While the fight against online human trafficking is a constant battle, there will be fewer casualties in the future.
Back in March…of last year, 64-year-old craigslist vigilante William Knight, of Streetsboro, Ohio, shot and killed a man he thought had stolen his son-in-law’s dirt bike. Knight found the bike being sold on craigslist and decided to confront the seller in Akron. The only problem is, the seller wasn’t the person who stole the bike. Knight killed 24-year-old Keith Johnson who had bought the bike from someone the year before. Knight claimed self-defense, but witnesses say Johnson was trying to flee at the time of the shooting. Originally, Knight was only charged with involuntary manslaughter. Later, a grand jury indicted Knight for murder.
Initially, Knight had informed police he was going to meet the seller, but something more pressing drew the police’s attention so Knight didn’t wait on them. If you find something of yours that was stolen listed on a site or app like craigslist, don’t go to meet the seller yourself. Instead, call the police and let them handle it. It’s kind of their job. While the media loves to tell stories about civilians whose stolen stuff ended up on craigslist and got it back by confronting the thief, there are so many things that could go wrong in that situation that it’s too dangerous to conduct such a sting on your own. There’s no stolen property that’s worth the cost of your life.
Back in 2016, 42-year old Martha Teran was shot and killed in the parking lot of Medieval Times in Dallas, Texas. Back in April, 24-year-old Lonzell Hunter was convicted and sentenced to life for her murder. Hunter used a fake OfferUp profile in order to set up the robbery. When someone in the car Lonzell was sitting in snatched the phone, a struggle ensued and Lonzell shot Martha Teran. Lonzell had also messaged friends telling them to be ready to “bleed this block” for “street money.” He has also been charged with a charge of capital murder for the murder of another victim at a convenience store.
No matter how glitzy and slick a classifieds app appears to be, none of them are 100% safe and just meeting in a public place isn’t a guarantee of safety anymore. If you still insist on using classifieds apps or websites, meet the other person nowhere except a police station. If they don’t want to meet you there, then the odds are they’re up to no good.
Previously, I’ve discussed the murder of Desiree Robinson before. She was the 16-year-old girl who was being prostituted on Backpage in the Chicago area. On Christmas Eve of 2016, when 32-year-old Antonio Rosales couldn’t pay her, he allegedly brutally murdered her instead. Her alleged pimp tried to get other women to work for him and reportedly said: “Now that she’s gone, I got no money coming in.” Now, the man who recruited Desiree for her pimp testified in court to how little Desiree’s life was worth to those who were trafficking her.
Back in April, 26-year-old Charles McFee pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of sex trafficking conspiracy for recruiting Desiree into prostitution. McFee expected to get a $250 ‘finder’s fee’ after ‘giving’ Desiree to her alleged pimp, Joseph Hazley. Hazley is still awaiting trial on human trafficking charges for prostituting Desiree on Backpage. In exchange for a lighter sentence, McFee is expected to testify against Hazley.
When people ask why we need legislation like FOSTA and SESTA, Desiree’s story should be the answer why, and her story is only one among multitudes of women and children who have been bought and sold like so much merchandise on Backpage. Not only do websites that facilitate human trafficking need to be held responsible for deaths like Desiree’s, but a message also needs to be sent to every would-be pimp and trafficker who thinks they can make some quick money by selling people into sexual slavery.
I initially posted about the murders of Alize Smith and Jarron Moreland here. Back in April, the two 21-year-olds from Moore, Oklahoma, were shot and killed during a craigslist gun sale gone wrong. Their bodies were found days later, weighted down in a pond. 22-year-old Kevin Garcia-Boettler and 43-year-old Johnny Barker were charged with their murders. Also charged was Garcia-Boettler’s 16-year-old brother who has now been identified as Brett Boettler who has been charged as an adult. 40-year-old Crystal Rachelle Boettler, the mother of the two brothers, has been charged as an accessory after the fact.
After allegedly shooting the two victims in their van, the Boettler brothers took their victims to their mom’s home where Barker, Mrs. Boettler’s boyfriend, is said to have helped the brothers dispose of the bodies. Reports are also now saying that Smith’s and Moreland’s bodies were dismembered before being thrown into the pond.
According to court documents, detectives found the White Chrysler Town and Country van which was seen during the shooting, at the Boettler home.
After looking inside, they found “cleaning products and a power washer around the vehicle,” “dried blood spatter on the ceiling of the van” and “a bucket of water with a chainsaw bar inside and soaking in the water along with several jigsaw blades.”
Again, all this senseless violence could have been prevented if craigslist had only moderated their own site for illegal gun sales. Selling firearms is against their terms of service, but they refuse to enforce it.
Just because craigslist removed its personals section doesn’t mean it’s any safer. Last weekend, two men, 21-year-olds Alize Smith and Jarron Moreland, went missing in Moore, Oklahoma, after witnesses saw them being taken into a van. Moreland’s family claimed that he was meeting someone to sell something through craigslist. Sadly, the bodies of Moreland and Smith were found weighted in a pond earlier this week. Three suspects have been arrested and charged in their murders, and they are 22-year-old Kevin Garcia-Boettler, 43-year-old Johnny Barker, and the 16-year-old brother of Garcia-Boettler.
According to police, Moreland and Smith were said to be selling a gun on craigslist and the trio of suspects were meeting with the two men to purchase the gun. Once Moreland and Smith approached the suspects’ van, one of the suspects claims they heard a gun being cocked by one of the victims. This resulted in one of the suspects firing on the two men, killing them both. Tragically, this could have all been prevented.
Craigslist’s terms of service forbids firearms from being sold or traded on their site, yet it happens all the time. The problem with craigslist is the usual one as they hardly ever do any kind of moderation on their site for any kind of illegal items or sales. Instead, they rely on their users to flag any kind of inappropriate ad, the same users who are posting the illegal ads to begin with. This is akin to the inmates running the asylum. Craigslist has the ability to screen for ads like this as they have done so in the past with unlocked iPhones when that was still illegal. Yet they allow guns to change hands without even batting an eye.
In a previous post, I wondered what Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer’s role was in the Federal seizure of Backpage since his name did not appear on the 93-count indictment against other Backpage heads and employees. Now we know as it has been announced that prior to the seizure of Backpage, Ferrer pleaded guilty to charges of money laundering and conspiracy to facilitate prostitution.
Last week, not March for once, Federal authorities announced that they took Ferrer to three separate states to plead guilty against the various charges against him in Texas, Arizona and California. Ferrer has also agreed to testify against Backpage founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin. In his pleas Ferrer admitted that Backpage was well aware that the ads on its site were used to facilitate prostitution.
“I have long been aware,” Ferrer wrote, “that the great majority of these advertisements are, in fact, advertisements for prostitution services (which are not protected by the First Amendment and which are illegal in 49 states and in much of Nevada).”
Ferrer also admitted that Backpage was used to launder money after the credit card companies stopped accepting payments for Backpage.
“I worked with my co-conspirators to find ways to fool credit card companies into believing that Backpage-associated charges were being incurred on different websites,” as well as route Backpage money through seemingly unrelated entities, and to use companies which processed crypto-currencies.”
This virtually nullifies any kind of ‘free speech’ argument Backpage could possibly present in court.
In exchange for his plea, Ferrer is looking at a maximum of five years in prison and forfeiture of his corporate assets. While I wholeheartedly believe Ferrer should spend way more time in prison than five years, if it gets Lacey and Larkin to spend a considerable amount of time in prison then I’m all for it.
In my previous post, I discussed how craigslist shuttered its personal section in anticipation of the FOSTA law. Many in tech circles have lamented the loss of craigslist personals as if it was some place where wholesome couples would meet so they could attend church and ice cream socials together. What they’re conveniently forgetting is that the personals section of craigslist had a much more sinister undercurrent that not much of the public was aware of.
Sadly, this is not just a one-off occurrence as the Craigslist personals have a long history of this type of activity. This wasn’t even the youngest victim to ever be sold through craigslist as an Idaho man tried selling a 3-year-old girl through craigslist. In either case, none of the ads were flagged by craigslist’s community policing. For those of you who try to say that this will drive the predators underground, that’s the whole point. Without such a platform like craigslist, predators will have one less highly trafficked platform to find their victims and reprehensible parents won’t have the marketplace to sell their kids.