In the age of the Internet, information is at our fingertips. We no longer have to wait for the next episode of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” to come on to find out who committed a crime. Thanks to web sleuths, investigation into crimes big and small can now take place online. Here are three cases that were solved with the help of web sleuths.
- “Chewbacca” the dog
In 2013, a young pup was rescued from the streets of Tijuana, Mexico by a team of no-kill rescue volunteers. Named Chewy by his rescuers, this pooch is lucky to be alive as he had been badly abused and left for dead on the side of a road. Rescuers uploaded photos of Chewy’s condition to Facebook, where a group of web sleuths took notice. A team calling themselves Team Dog rescued Chewy from being euthanized and set out to find him a good home in Canada. The group garnered massive support online with images that exposed poor Chewy’s injuries after his initial rescue; he had two large bedsores that were severely infected, and his muzzle was covered in scabs from being rubbed up against a wire fence.
The web sleuths used the images to garner attention for Chewy’s plight, which led to a flood of responders offering to take him into their care. With the help of Facebook posters, Team Dog was able to identify Chewy’s abuser and turned over key evidence to authorities that eventually resulted in her arrest. In December 2013, Team Dog shared this update with their online community: “Chewy needs your help!
He has been moved from Tijuana all the way up to Vancouver, where he will have surgery tomorrow! We have been looking after him every day since we got him out of that back ally Tijuana.” This happy ending is all thanks to social media and web sleuths. If there’s anything that would push people to learn how to become a web sleuth, it would be a heartwarming story like this.
- The murder of Elizabeth DeCaro, solved 17 years later
It was May 6, 2014, when St Louis County police discovered the body of Elizabeth DeCaro. She had been shot to death in her home 18 years earlier and there was no suspect or motive for this crime until now. This is where web sleuths come into play. One of these sleuths came across a news article about this cold case online and decided to take action – she began blogging about the unsolved case, which caught the attention of another blogger who has written extensively on crime cases. With their combined efforts, they were able to crack this case wide open using clues found on social media platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and more that exposed one man’s dark past.
In a case that spanned 17 years, web sleuths combined their online investigations and helped bring Elizabeth DeCaro’s murderer, Craig Wood, to justice. After being found guilty of the crime in October 2014, Wood was sentenced to death in December 2015, where he awaits his fate behind bars. Without social media evidence available on the Internet, this cold case could have gone unsolved for another decade or even more – who knows?
- The case of the long lost twin
In May 2013, a story began to circulate on social media that quickly captured people’s attention around the world. A woman named Anna Downey had begun posting pictures of herself on Facebook in an attempt to find her identical twin sister. Anna, who is originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, was adopted at birth and only recently learned about her sister’s existence after their parents passed away.
Downey tried but failed to track down her sister through DNA testing services like 23andMe or Ancestry.com, which led her to turn to social media for help. As a result, she has garnered worldwide support online with posts shared across Instagram, Tumblr, Reddit, and Facebook, where she asks users to share her story with everyone they know.
The Daily Mail newspaper in the UK recently broke Anna’s story, which reported that Anna’s sister had been traced to Brazil after a Facebook user named Maria Luisa Cravo Rebeiro shared Downy’s story online. She too was adopted at birth and only discovered her own identical twin after being contacted by Downy on social media. There are many cases where web sleuths have helped people reconnect with their families, but this is one of the few occasions where twins have managed to track each other down across international borders using nothing more than an Internet connection.
The Internet has given everyone the power to be a web sleuth, though not all cases are as cut and dry as these. Social media sites have created hubs where people with anything in common can come together to discuss their similar interests or struggles. If you have a question about anything, chances are an entire community online that shares that same question. Look online; you’ll never know what you might find!