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Animal Instinct: How Cat-Loving Sleuths Found an Accused Killer Sadist

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The latter is a problem that the Vaccumer Kitten Killer investigators would face, but at this early point in their search, they had not reached out to law enforcement. They had, though, uncovered some facts: The wolf blanket was identified as a "Shavel Home, 60-80 Inch hi-pile throw," which had been sold on eBay for $25.26 and could be shipped outside the U.S. The vacuum was identified as a Kenmore Canister Vacuum, Yellow 26082.

"It was so fascinating," says Moovan about the hunt. "People were picking things up I didn't even think of. Like, the size of the bed — are twin beds the same in Russia as they are in America? It was a fun but frustrating time. It was exciting."

But after thousands of man-hours, the group was no closer to finding out the identity of the figure in the dark-green hooded sweatshirt.

animal activism shane sia barbi twins
Animal activists Shane and Sia Barbi attend an event for Best Friends Animal Society in Culver City, California.
Jean-Paul Aussenard/WireImage

At the same time in Hollywood, Sia Barbi, one-half of the Barbi Twins, sister models who gained fame in 1991 after posing in Playboy, was receiving e-mails directing her to the 1 boy 2 kittens video. A longtime animal advocate, Barbi, along with twin sister Shane , had recently lobbied online for the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, which sought to ban sexual fetish videos featuring people, mostly women, crushing small vertebrate animals with high heels or bare feet. The bill had passed in November 2010, which raised the twins' profile in the media as enemies of animal-abuse videos. 

Sia Barbi joined the Vaccumer Kitten Killer Facebook group, but wishing to remain anonymous, had done so using the alias Lee Madison. She informed the group that she had media connections that could help spread the word.

To that end, Barbi reached out to Joe "Panz" Panzarella, who had already been deluged with e-mails directing him to the video. Panzarella is one of the leaders of Rescue Ink, a collection of hard-nosed bikers who fight against animal abuse on Long Island, New York. The group had received national attention from their 2009 reality show on the National Geographic channel, which followed the tattooed bad boys as they confronted animal abusers throughout New York. It lasted only one season, but while the show was fleeting, it boosted the club's online profile, and Panzarella says they were contacted by calls from "every part of the world," concerning 1 boy, 2 kittens.

Panzarella says his team analyzed the video, and the group tossed out speculations that it might have come from Europe. Rescue Ink announced a $2,500 reward for information leading to the capture of the figure in the green hoodie after Christmas, 2010.

Meanwhile, the Vaccumer Kitten Killer Facebook group was getting chaotic.

Users had begun posting links to Facebook profiles of people they thought looked like the kitten killer. "This might be him" became a common refrain — a precursor to the accusatory clamor that popped up on Reddit in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing three years later.

The posts pointing to Facebook profiles of innocent people were being deleted as fast as possible by Boyle and the other admins.

In an attempt to get some clarity amidst the disorder, Boyle started a second, smaller Facebook group calling it Useful Individuals and invited the users from the main Vaccumer Kitten Killer group who he thought had the best skills — hackers, investigators, filmmakers, artists — to help identify the figure in the green hoodie.

Nicee Punk used her Russian Language skills to theorize that the accents of the laughing voices heard in the background of the video just didn't match up with the items in the apartment. Coupled with the clue which Baudi discovered — that at minute .28, the figure leans out of frame and a certain "hum" on the video stops, along with the voices, indicating the voices were most likely either a recording or a an Internet phone service. 

They discovered that someone had posted to 4chan a photo of a person lying on a bed holding two kittens in his hands. The face was pixelated, but the image looked to be a still photo taken in the same room as the video — wolf bedspread and all. Artists in the group tried enhancing the image, sketching out what the face might look like.

The group worked through the New Year, and by January 8th, 2011, many believed they had found the kitten killer.

A member had found the profile of a Facebook user calling himself Jamsey Cramsalot Inhisass. Jamsey had posted a video to his Facebook page of a cat in a cage being set on fire — and the photos on his profile were of a teenage boy with similar facial features to the blurry green figure in the green hoodie. Was this the killer?

Panzarella, who readily admits he's "not a nice guy," wasn't content to wait and see. Along with the Barbi Twins, he came up with a plan to bring Jamsey out in the open. 

"My sister said we would have to lure this person in," says Panzarella. "We would have to give him something irresistible."

Panzarella enlisted a member of Rescue Ink who was a grade school teacher — and a female body builder. The woman began a Facebook dialogue with Jamsey, attempting to appeal to his narcissist ego and reveal himself.

After some back and forth, Jamsey admitted to the female bodybuilder that he was, in fact, the hooded figure in the 1 boy 2 kittens video. Case solved. Rescue Ink thought they had their man. But members of the Vaccumer Kitten Killer group wanted proof.

"We didn't think [Jamsey] was him," says Boyle. "We thought he was just a troll." 

The Vaccumer Kitten Killer admins were skeptical that this was not their man — but the focus on Jamsey Cramsalot Inhisass had a welcome side effect: Less than a day after the group publicly identified Jamsey as the culprit behind 1 boy 2 kittens, Nicee Punk received a Facebook message from a user named Beverly Kent. 

"The name of the kitten vacummer you are looking for," read the message, "is Luka Magnotta."

"I got heart palpitations," says Nicee. "It's been three weeks of no sleeping, no eating. And suddenly you got a name. You could put a name to the face."

Nicee forwarded the message to the admins of the group. "We Googled Luka Magnotta," she says. "And there we go."

The search came back with the equivalent of twisted Internet gold: articles on chintzy user-generated sites detailing Magnotta's jet-set lifestyle. And hundreds of photos. Luka on a beach. Luka in a sports car. Luke in a limo. In a hot tub. Under the Eiffel Tower. His hairstyles would vary, but his chiseled jaw, high cheekbones and bright blue eyes remained the same. A twink James Dean. Often shirtless. Always pouting. And almost always alone.

There was a Magnotta video slideshow, showing a thin young man in multiple outfits and poses, and it was set to New Order's "True Faith."

The articles and images were mainly from user-generated sites, message boards and photo buckets. But there were a few from legitimate news outlets.

"Homolka Rumour Ruins Model's Life," read the headline to a video link from a September 2007 Toronto Sun interview with Magnotta in which he denied that he dated infamous Canadian murderess Karla Homolka.

But while the citizen detectives were happy to finally put a name and a face to their supposed culprit, they were bewildered by what they were finding. On first Internet glance, Luka Magnotta was a not a real person, but a superstar. A globe-trotting model, hopping between New York, Miami, Los Angles, New York, Russia. Rumors on message board posts about him dating Michael Jackson and Madonna.

"There were times where Baudi [Moovan] and I would go, 'Is this a dream? Is this fake?" says Green. "Is this an online prank that we don't know about and we're suckers?"

luka magnotta
Luka Magnotta is seen posing in a pool in one of many photos he posted of himself on social networking sites.
Rex Features via AP Images

Eric Newman was born July 24th, 1982 in Scarborough, Ontario, to high school sweethearts Anna Yourkin and Donald Newman. They named him after the actor Eric Roberts, according to an online journal he later penned.

Newman went to live with his grandmother after his parents split up, and attended high school in southeastern Ontario.

As early as 2003, Newman, then 21, was stripping in a Toronto club and appearing in low-budget gay porn. In 2004, he was convicted of impersonation and fraud after befriending a mentally incapacitated 21-year-old woman and applying for credit cards in her name, eventually charging $10,000. Before he was sentenced to nine months of community service and 12 months probation, his lawyer showed the court a medical report claiming his client's "significant psychiatric issues." Justice Lauren Marshall told Newman, "You have a medical problem and you need to always take medication. If you do not, your life is going to get messed up."

In 2005, Newman appeared, using the name "Jimmy," as a "Fab Boy" in the Toronto gay publication Fab Magazine. In an accompanying caption, Jimmy informed interested readers that his best attribute is "my package. I got a mean dick. Me and my buddies made a few videos."

In 2006, he legally changed his name from Eric Clinton Newman to Luka Rocco Magnotta. He applied for bankruptcy in March 2007, citing "illness, lack of employment and insufficient income to pay off debts." It was after the bankruptcy that Luka's quest for fame kicked into high gear. Normal life wasn't working, Magnotta decided celebrity might be more amenable.

He auditioned for a reality show called Cover Guy, declaring in his casting video that "a lot of people tell me I'm devastatingly good-looking." He was not chosen. He then auditioned for the reality show Plastic Makes Perfect, flaunting his multiple hair transplants and nose job and explaining how he wanted to get pectoral implants. He missed out again. When he couldn't get famous by old media means, Magnotta focused his efforts online. Twice he created Wikipedia pages about himself, only to have them taken down by the self-policing community.

He created the rumor on message boards that he was dating Karla Homolka, who was convicted of helping her husband Paul Bernardo kill two teenagers — along with raping and murdering her own sister Tammy — in the early Nineties. He called into a radio show to deny the rumors, and then visited the newsroom of the Toronto Sun, earning his first piece of mainstream press. The reporter wrote a skeptical story, noting how Magnotta was groggy and shaking, and how "We offered to get him some medical help but he declined."

Hundreds of posts about Magnotta appeared on various forums. "This is a fanpage I made for Luka Magnotta, my new idol," on a YouTube page. "Luka Magnotta arrested in New Mexico for Trying to Gain Access to Area 51 says local authoritys" (sic) on a Flickr page. "I saw something tonight on You Tube where someone had stated that River and Luka were cousins?? Is this so??" on a River Phoenix fan website

Magnotta himself was the source of these comments and questions. It was later established that he had created at least 70 "sock puppet" accounts on Facebook, and at least 20 websites devoted to Luka Magnotta. His Google carpetbombing helped his name show up when people searched for famous, or infamous, names.

"He was trying to troll people to get famous," says Moovan about Magnotta. "Bottom line."

It wasn't working, so Magnotta took a different approach.

"There's this unwritten rule of the Internet," says Vaccumer Kitten Killer groupmember Green. "It's called rule zero. And it's you don't mess with cats." 

Not unless, that is, you want attention. 

So Magnotta made 1 boy 2 kittens and posted it on December 21st, 2010.  

"What better way to get famous," adds Moovan. "Than to fuck with cats?"

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